The Gaslamp Killer The Gaslamp KillerBreakthrough
Protected by an alias evoking Victorian depravation (his name could be the title of a horror novel), hidden inside a mop of hair and a toxic beard, The Gaslamp Killer has created a persona full of mystery and black humour. He seems to move behind the scenes of the new Californian psychedelia like the expressionist shadow of Nosferatu disguised as Frank Zappa. Let's not forget that this man was one of the first to formulate the holy digital invocation of the West Coast in the quarters of Low End Theory, when the now über hip club wasn't yet the place to be for the futurist beat nerds. Being the co-founder of a platform like that brings you status and respect and, yes, William Benjamin Bensussen has earned those things.
While countless Los Angeles artists were 'getting ahead' of the originator by releasing their respective debut albums at the height of the electronic hype, many were asking themselves why on earth a man so famous in the indie parts of Digital Cali, a pioneer with so much influence, would deliberately delay his own jump to the big leagues. I've no idea, but I would like to think Bensussen simply didn't want to take advantage of the hype, that he didn't want to be just another artist; a cunning and patient move that leaves him outside of the movement he more than helped create. It’s a split from his own flock that he has been accentuating through the few titles he did release (a tiny catalogue of a couple of 10”s, 7”s and the odd EP on Brainfeeder, among other imprints), and, most of all, his incendiary DJ sets full of spasmodic choreographies, bizarre beats, slasher darkness and hallucinogenic flashes - manna from the heavens for consumers of the good weeds.
It seems two ice ages ago that Los Angeles claimed the role of experimental beat capital of the world, and to many, this album may arrive a bit late, but there's no denying that “Breakthrough” is exactly what his fans expected from the hairy producer. It's easy: over a vaporous dubstep and cyborg hip-hop beat - more present on some tracks, hardly distinguishable on others - The Gaslamp Killer spills some real drums, psychedelic instrumentation, ghostly samples, and thick, atmospheric pills. It’s much in the vein of Kutmah, but mixed with Zappa, Monster Magnet and El-P.
The sound is unpredictable and psychotic at times. Locking horns with usual suspects from the scene, such as Gonjasufi, Daedelus, Samiyam, and Shigeto, Bensussen takes us to his world; a dense washbowl of psychotropic sounds and creeping rhythms which take their cue from the psychedelic imagery of 70s satanic rock. They reveal themselves before the listener like a modern mass of electronic music for black magic practitioners. Sinister, plagued with spider webs, psychoactive and full-blown Z-movie, “Breakthrough” doesn't recoil from the trippiest abstract intrigues: spectral cello suites on “Veins”, galactic psychedelia on “Father”, old speeches sampled on “Fuck”, drum and electric distortion suites on “Keep It Simple Stupid”... The Gaslamp Killer doesn't give a rat's behind about accessibility. He makes his music for him, period.
And under those premises, he reproduces his corrupt idea of abstract hip-hop using some terrifying weapons. Kaleidoscopically structured, bubbling wonky on “Peasants, Rippers & Retards”; dizzying, Aphex Twin-style beats riddled with arabesque string sections on “Flange Face”; nightmarish pop-singing on “Apparitions”; jazz stained with giallo music on “Meat Guilt”; sick funk with a distinct flavour of sulphur on “Seven Years Of Bad Luck For Fun”. A demonstration of commitment to himself that, at times, may even feel too arcane, if you're not in the right mood for it. In short: if The Gaslamp Killer were a film director, his masterpiece would be “City Of The Living Dead”. If Lucio Fulci, may he rest in peace, were a musician, his best album would be “Breakthrough”.