Having graced us with three EPs and countless mixes, LA’s The Gaslamp Killer now delivers his debut LP. Released on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label, it’s fair to say that Breakthrough has a lot to live up to. As you’d expect, it’s a quick-fire record of oddball hip-hop beats and glitchy Eastern soundscapes. However with the presence of Gonjasufi on the record, constantly providing a reminder of his like-minded and excellent 2012 release, MU.ZZ.LE, Breakthrough never quite gets off the ground as it should.
The album runs in a manner more akin to a mix than a traditional album, making it somewhat harder to dissect than usual. This being said, the opening trio of Breakthrough Intro, Veins and Holy Mt Washington set a perfect scene. As an otherworldly atmosphere lingers throughout, the mood is seedy, the beats tight and groove laden. The trouble however lies in the influx of out of place moments, such as the Eastern string feel to Critic. It simply disperses the mood when plonked between Holy Mt Washington and the brilliant Dead Vets, which subtly takes a welcome hip-hop infused Portishead direction.
From here, the likes of Flange Face fall just short of what they should be. Once again it’s the strings that come across too potently and spoil the ‘vibe’ somewhat. By no means are these tracks bad, but simply present themselves as slightly irritating when you consider how engrossing the album is at times. This is a record that should almost lull you into an on going daze, yet too often it grabs your attention with unwanted brashness. Equally, the spoken word intro to Fuck, explaining the many meanings of the word, is entirely pointless. Were this a different type of record, it would be a welcome dose of amusement, alas it is not. These moments make the whole affair seem impatient. The potential is there to suggest The Gaslamp Killer could have created the perfect hip-hop incarnation of Portishead.
The remainder of the second third of the album continues to disappoint, stuck in no man’s land between the dancefloor and dimly lit, smoke-filled rooms. Equally, by this point it lacks a certain originality needed to set it apart from the likes of Gonasufi and the ever-evolving Flying Lotus. Impulse for example overcomplicates itself; the underlying groove and bass line fit suitably with the album’s earlier tracks, however some unnecessarily bleepy beats once again detract from what could be a simple but effective album based around that seedy mood. In comparison with the start, the latter stages of the album feel less ‘organic’ and natural; it all comes across forced as if he’s trying to make the record something into something away from the direction it would have naturally headed.
The last few tracks get find a better mix between simple and complex. The ironically named Keep It Simple Stupid sums up perfectly where Breakthrough works best. Closing track, the six minute In The Dark… is utterly brilliant and leaves you longing for what could have been something special.