August 12th, 2009 | Album reviews

champoyhate | shop: gaslamp killer

Download: The Gaslamp Killer “Anything Worse”


(from My Troubled Mind out now on Brainfeeder)

The Gaslamp Killer mix that came out just before this debut EP was—as advertised at its release party last month—a postcard from Hell. But the best thing about Hell is that it’s got something for everybody, and that’s Gaslamp Killer, too, who (like formidable fellow Low End Theory beatmakers Nobody and Daedelus) makes music that could connect with any possible person. My Troubled Mind—released digitally and on happily hostile 10” vinyl, as perfectly fits the world’s only Dorothy Ashby fan with a SHUT UP STUPID BITCH! t-shirt—is nominally an instrumental beat record. But play it at Dub Club, at Mas Exitos, at Echo Curio or at Manimal Fest and it will fit like it was especially commissioned. In seven songs and snippets, he dissolves and resolves together again dub and psych and hip-hop and rock and kraut and electronics and if not now he’ll certainly soon grab Pete Drake and his talking guitar and claw off a little piece of country, too. So let’s be the first to congratulate this new inspired Frankenstein—you have stitched everything together and through lightning brought it to life.

Gaslamp Killer is happy to be a monster at the mixer live but the songs he makes tend to be measured and menacing—they rise slow from the mud and breathe through clouds of reverb. His 2007 track “Kobwebs” (from ArtDontSleep’s From L.A. With Love comp) was then and is now a beast—a ringer for some $5,000 original or $50 Shadoks reissue from one of those world’s-edge places where the musicians sound especially lost and seem especially to love it. It was like super-dark Lee “Scratch” Perry or Keith Hudson dub—low end mixed to max power and vocals isolated and ragged and lonely—and it found its melody by slowly unraveling the kind of Turk-rock songs presented so clearly on Love Peace & Poetry comps or Dr. No’s Oxperiment. Here, they surfaced just to sink—submarine psychedelia—while Gonja Sufi sang through analog Sputnik chatter and swells of echo.

From there comes the Gaslamp Killer of My Troubled Mind, newest follow-up to an impressive series of mixes and Manson imagery. Each component of “Kobwebs” is isolated and amplified here. It’s clearer, purer, weirder, darker—if that’s not Hawkwind about to break into instructions of what to do in case of sonic attack on the last track “Birthday Music,” it should be because that kind of lo-fi sci-fi apocalypticism fits Gaslamp well. He likes a strange sound—that madman-at-the-limit aesthetic of Sam Phillips (“Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll” with the late Billy Lee Riley) and Keith Hudson (“Talbot Affair”) and Joe Meek (“The Bublight”) and Neu! (“Cassetto,” which uses the primitive thumb-on-the-turntable effects Gaslamp puts to expert use). On My Troubled Mind, there’s that same absolute focus of personality—the sense of someone concentrating to demonstrate their utmost personal conviction that a Faust beat would fit just fine over a string of 808s because somehow they’re basically the same thing.

My Troubled Mind begins with a subcontinental psych intro (“Could there really be anything worse than what is on the way?”) that snaps into analog synthwork by Computer Jay that puts a John Carpenter / Rinse Dream vibe across first full track “Anything Worse,” with drums that decay into their component pixels before a spasm of double-time in the middle and some brassy library-style horns that push the song toward “Turk Mex.” That one’s just as advertised by the title, but the backmasked halfway break makes a signature Gaslamp moment—rattled guitar line and purring organ sourced from last call in some strange capital city.

Sublime Frequencies and Finders Keepers (who released Gaslamp into their archives to make a mix) love this kind of thing—Interzone garage or Cambodian moon rocks and just the pure strange sound of vintage electric psych in the wild. “Baiafro” starts as a burst of digi-noise and then slides into panting synth and hand drums and electric piano—it barely settles into texture before curling and collaping into “Ruskie Electric.” It’s a tense introduction to “Birthday Music,” the final song offering (with “Turk Mex”) some of the most affecting moments on Troubled Mind. Here Gaslamp finally deploys few words: “Seems I just don’t have nowhere to go… sure would like see a face I know…” “Peace! Tranquilityyyyyyy!” And then it cuts off like the power blew out—a constant problem for Frankenstein, too.

This is a quick and efficient little record, precisely designed to work within itself and with anything that might end up besides it as well. That’s credit to a DJ and producer with a sense both of feel and mechanics—someone who can put a microscope on what makes a song sick or healthy. Many times on My Troubled Mind it seems like Margo Guryan or Helios Creed or Damo Suzuki is going to erupt from the echoes, and that’s evidence of how many connections are sparking around here. Gaslamp Killer’s music bristles with points of access—if he’s troubled, it’s only because he’s thinking too much.

—Chris Ziegler