DJ and producer The Gaslamp Killer is perhaps the artist who best embodies the stylistic quirks of the Brainfeeder collective. His eclectic mixes have combined the jarring and abrasive with the eminently compelling and tuneful, often delivered with a raw passion that sidesteps the usual hipster affections. Elsewhere, the production work with Gonjasufi for his 2010 album A Sufi and a Killer highlighted a keen ear for esoteric psychedelic loops. In that sense Breakthrough, the first full-length debut, has stuck with a reasonably familiar formula.
For the large part Breakthrough is comprised of instrumental tracks, with the exception of two vocal contributions from Gonjasufi and a rather brilliant recording of what this reviewer assumes is GK’s mother. After a cursory intro, second track Veins sets an intense mood; its sampled strings faintly recalling the angular bowing of the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby. Breakthrough has plenty of tension throughout, with its combination of booming live drums and saw-toothed synths bearing some similarity to J Dilla’s posthumous Shining.
The majority of the songs feature collaborative work from Brainfeeder associates, such as Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Daedelus, and this contributes to a sense of The Gaslamp Killer riffing off those he’s worked closely with in the past. Impulse seems to exemplify this approach, its ping-ponging between 8-bit synthesisers and a scratched flute sample is chaotic, but also charismatic enough to carry itself off. Elsewhere Nimmin runs exchanges between the tanbur and drums, creating a moment of comparative solemnity: nothing explodes or disintegrates into static, it is a simple, beautiful exercise in making a song. Occasionally things feel a little thrown together, but only in the sense of it being passionately co-ordinated through a series of collaborations. For all its gestures towards irreverence – after all, this is an album with a track titled Fuck – Breakthrough is an album built by someone who clearly loves music, in all its plurality. It may lack some of the focus and initial charm of his DJ mixes, but for the large part The Gaslamp Killer has created a full-length debut worthy of his reputation.
Words: Andrew Spragg