The Gaslamp Killer – Breakthrough (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
THE Gaslamp Killer – aka southern California native Willie Bensussen, unleashes his debut album in the form of the aptly named Breakthrough and charms, delights, confuses and confounds in equal measure.
Billed by its own Brainfeeder label as “a manic and mystic trip through the mind of a madman”, this blends California-inspired psych with widespread global influences and employs a number of guests along the way.
It is, by its very nature, an oddity – sometimes alienating, sometimes funky. It’s always interesting even when not really inspiring. And it’s as trippy as it is kooky; as cinematic at times as it is utterly leftfield at others.
For all its whacky invention, however, Breakthrough is at its best when keeping things accessible and when employing old-school breaks and beats to achieve a sound that is more synonymous with the likes of DJ Shadow, Kid Koala and even David Holmes.
You have to delve deep to find them though. An intro, for instance, is utterly trippy and completely loopy and, quite possibly, an immediate turn off.
But Veins, which employs the gritty vocals of Gonjasufi and some sharp violin stabs, offers the first moment of intrigue and cinema leaning beauty, while Dead Vets some tracks on thrives on its fusion of retro hip-hop inflicted beats and electronics, creating a funky vibe that’s reminiscent of old school DJ Shadow mixed with even older school Lalo Schifrin.
Fuck provides a comical interlude and a dissection of the word and its meaning, Apparitions re-introduces Gonjasufi for some deliriously tripped out fun (as though he’s remixing an old Doors instrumental with additional lyrics) and Daedelus works some of his own magic on the chopped up Impulse, which boasts a danger about it while sounding like a pinball machine come to life.
Admittedly, Bensussen gets a little pre-occupied with his own eccentricities sometimes and overdoes the bleeps and whistles on tracks like Peasants, Cripples & Retards, while testing the patience on interludes such as Father and Mother.
But there’s a notable use of Eastern influences on the cinematic Nissim (featuring Amir Yaghami) and a splendid introduction of beats around the one minute and 40 second mark, while the chopped up beats and skewed sounds of Seven Years of Bad Luck For Fun sound like he’s having perverse fun toying with expectation and rhythmic structure. Mind you, this can frustrate too.
Come the dark finale, In The Dark… you may well scratch your head in bewilderment. But equally you may well want to revisit some of the album’s finer, more coherent moments too. It’s that kind of a collection.
Download picks: Veins, Dead Vets, Fuck, Nissim, Seven Years of Bad Luck For Fun, In The Dark…