The humble mini album is a format that all too often gets overlooked. Some fantastic examples of the form include the wonderful hugely underrated collaboration between Calexico and Iron & Wine and Grandaddy’s exuberant, cruelly ignored Excerpts From The Diary Of Todd Zilla. The mini album format seems to present particular issues with an artist such as Gonjasufi, a mysterious figure who has built his reputation at least in part due to the eclectic, sprawling nature of 2010’s A Sufi And A Killer album.
Working with inventive producers such as Flying Lotus and Gaslamp Killer, the Gonjasufi sound took in psych, folk, desert rock, hip hop and soul to create a bewildering concoction inducing hyperactivity and disorientation. Individual tracks were clipped short, either ending abruptly or segueing unexpectedly into something radically different. The one coherent connecting factor was Gonjasufi’s heady, peculiar voice, often made all the more abrasive through clever use of distortion and echo.
In some senses, MU.ZZ.LE feels like a continuation of this surprisingly successful formula. The way the weird, punishing Feedin‘ Birds suddenly morphs into the hypnotic, drunken R&B of Nikels and Dimes (sic) is typical of Gonjasufi’s modus operandi. It does, however, feel slightly weird to be faced with a Gonjasufi project that seems a little closer to something focused, and which is all over in a rapid fire, dazzling twenty five minutes.
Gonjasufi is particularly skilled here in making virtues of characteristics that in other contexts might seem negative. There’s a stalking sense of claustrophobia – some of the pieces here evoke feelings of disturbed sleep or confusion. Perhaps as a result, there’s also a lingering sense of drowsiness – a strangely compelling half-awareness best evidenced in downbeat moments such as Venom or Timeout. It’s also present in the form of Gonjasufi’s deeply unconventional singing – which rarely carries a tune and which is frequently rendered incomprehensible.
With Gonjasufi, it’s always advisable to expect the unexpected. The music here often lulls the listener into a sleepy false sense of security before veering off on a bizarre tangent. There’s also a sense of danger and malice underlying everything that mostly keeps it clear of downtempo trip hop cliche.
However, dark and compelling though MU.ZZ.LE undoubtedly is, there is the niggling sense that this greater focus and narrow tempo range doesn’t really suit Gonjasufi. A track like The Blame seems almost conventional, and maybe even a little pedestrian by this artist’s fearless standards. Clearly, expecting mere repetition of the wheel is unfair – but MU.ZZ.LE does seem to work more as a more concentrated appendix to A Sufi And A Killer. It doesn’t necessarily suggest the most effective way forward.