Album Review: The Gaslamp Killer – Instrumentalepathy

9/10

Album Review: The Gaslamp Killer - Instrumentalepathy

On September 16th experimental electronica extraordinaire William Benjamin Bensussen aka The Gaslamp Killer unleashed his much anticipated second studio album, Instrumentalepathy. It has been a long wait for the follow up to GLK’s stellar debut 2012’s “Breakthrough”, an album that could not be more aptly named. The release was a rich dark blend of Techno/Electronica best characterized by the track, “Flangeface”. In the last four years GLK has been anything but stagnate.

In 2006 he moved to LA and helped found Low End Theory, LA’s monolithic weekly showcase of uncut beat driven tracks by various techno creators. He also participated in numerous collaborations and mix creating efforts. Instrumentalepathy follows in the same vein as “Breakthrough” adding even more extraordinary maturity and skill.

Gaslamp Killer started his career as a DJ in his home town of the San Diego, California. He started out DJing in the historic Gaslamp club district. He earned his nickname and moniker Gas Lamp Killer from his unique sets that were said to kill the musical vibe of the other DJ’s in the club. In addition his unforgettable shamanistic appearance drew attention as he wove tapestries of beats that were unequaled. Throughout his career collaborations with a small gift group of DJs and techno artists have help GLK develop into an inspired composer and artist. His debut Breakthrough was released on Flying Lotus’ “Brainfeeder” label. The album gained significant critical raves and was championed by high profile artists such as Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. “Breakthrough” would prove to be a capturing of disturbed hallucinations as channeled through GLK’s highly evolved musical mind.

Cut to 2013, riding home one night on his scooter GLK flipped it over incurring serious internal injuries. He ended up in the hospital undergoing emergency surgery on his spleen. The medics said if there had not been for timely medical intervention he would have died of the injuries he received from the accident. While in the hospital in a morphine haze GLK was already working on tunes which would appear on the latest release. The near death experience he encountered is reflected in the atmospheric Psychedelica found on “Instrumentalepathy”. GLK has said of the event, “The accident was one of the most important things that happened to me. It wasn’t a curse it was a blessing, a gift from God and the universe.”

“Instrumentalepathy” doubles down on the excellent offerings of GLK’s debut with more sonic cohesion and uplift that resonates throughout the kaleidoscopic release. In the years since “Breakthrough” GLK appears to have honed his skills to a rapier edge moving from a gifted and unique DJ/producer to a maestro of beats interweaving numerous sonics to make musical alchemy. But even amid those lofty heights there remains his trademark bone crushing bass and driving percussion that keep the selections tethered to the ground and accessible. The album kicks off with Pathetic Dreams which is the first time we hear any vocalization from GLK officially credited on a recording. He also brings in Kid Moxie and Miguel Atwood Fergerson on the collaborative process of the track. The intro is ominous as a childlike voice sings “This is the way the world ends” pinching the lyric from T.S. Elliot’s Hollow Men. The song is foreboding and exists in a miasmic interstellar space as ethereal chants and disembodied voices swirl perfectly. The song shifts into a more pixilated and shimmering sound as someone says “I love you”, mirroring the first thing GLK heard his mother say as he was coming out of anesthesia after his surgery. The song captures the emptiness of the unconscious as it swims to the surface of consciousness. It is an epic track.

Good Morning shakes off the groggy feeling of Pathetic Dreams with a full frontal attack of percussion that is driving. Here GLK along with guest Gonjasufi balance the trippy vocals with a gritty aggressive rhythm to great effect. The oscillation in the tempo also creates this spiraling out of control feeling underlined by the lyric, “Where did everybody go?” “Warm Winds” features Frimpong and guitarist Amir Yaghmai as it pushes the beat accelerator to the floor with a great bass line and world music inspiration. The track is then sent reeling with glorious jazz accents. The listener can drift within the scintillating musical jam out that transpires. The first three tracks are impeccably constructed and are a mind-bending listening experience.

The first official track release off of the album, Residual Tingles is a magnificent example of balanced composition. There is a perfect symmetry between the uplifting psychedelica and grounded sonics. The echoed layers of drum are spectacular and the entire song is mesmerizing as it veers off into the ether with a free jazz outré.

The album enters an exceptionally otherworldly section with the next three tracks. The Butcher, the interlude Friendship and Gammalaser Kill all feature blary synths and bouncy percussion, glitchy beats and keening effects. Conveyed within the songs is a surreal out of body feeling, inspired by the morphine filled days of GLK recovery. My favorite track of the three is “Gammalaser Kill” which feels like a spectacular psychedelic jam between the stylings of Miles Davis and Flying Lotus. The track is simply delectable. GLK gets assists from Mophono on “The Butcher” and MRR and Malcolm Catto on “Gammalaser Kill”.

Lifeguard Tower 22 is sunnier than the other selections and contains a sly beat with effective use of strings. Miguel Atwood Fergerson collaborates on this one with GLK producing a track full of texture experimental techno goodness. Haleva is one of the two songs that GLK worked on in the hospital after surgery. The song is a tribute to GLK’s Turkish great grandmother. He characterizes the song as a truly savage psychedelic Middle Eastern rock track. I can only concur. The groove on this song is stellar and will ensnare the listener with its lures and not let go. Hats off to Amir Yaghmir’s guitar work on this track. Listen for My Whistle starts with the sounds of a space ship landing and then careens off on its journey with off kilter drums. The track is best described as minimal, sensual and hypnotic. The strings act as the voice throughout the song. The lulling hazy effect of the track is mesmerizing.

Like an alarm clock Shred You to Bits stirs you out of your revelry with this aggressive, frenetic drum driven track. It is another embarrassment of musical riches on display and on this piece GLK collaborates with Shigeto. If you love drums this is a must listen track. The final selection is In the Dark Pt 2 which is 11 minutes long. It is again another stellar composition. GLK brings in Heliocentrics to assist. The song is dramatic with underpinnings of guitars and swirling strings that make for a mesmerizing and oh so satisfying piece. The track drifts off at the 8 minute mark and then at the 9 minute mark continues in a meditative style with whistles as it floats off into the mists like a prayer.

Instrumentalepathy is a breathtaking release. It may have taken four years for GLK to follow up his studio debut, but what a follow up. He has only improved and become more of a master of his genre as time passes. The music takes no prisoners and makes no apologies. Where “Breakthrough” was clever and precocious but at times a little choppy; “Instrumentalepathy” is cohesive and gliding. To get the most out of the release it is best to listen to it from beginning to end in without interruption. I would not be shocked to see “Instrumentalepathy” appear on many “Best of the Year” lists for 2016; it would be a crime if it does not.

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