Gonjasufi – The Caliph’s Tea Party (Warp/Border) CD REVIEW

Sometimes I can understand how alien it must be for those who think of “real music” being made up of “real instruments” performed in the traditional manner. While I have always loved the sound of electronic music, when faced with the permutations and degradations involved in sound materials found on The Caliph’s Tea Party, even I sometimes find myself feeling like an outsider.

On the rather interesting but very strange Gonjasufi debut, A Sufi & A Killer (released early in 2010), another artist’s backing tracks are reputedly taken and exploited for all they’re worth. That artist, Gaslamp Killer, pillaged his sound sources from all manner of broken old soul and funk tracks. So Gonjasufi’s album is already a kind of collage using bits and pieces of sonic detritus, some of it already degraded by the wear and tear of the mediums that carried it (old vinyl, primarily).

Now we’ve got The Caliph’s Tea Party, which takes the mutational approach even further. It’s a remix album, in which other currently prominent electronic artists have been invited to do their thing to tracks from the previous album. It holds together less well, as one would expect, but it’s full of surprises.

I must mention that A Sufi & A Killer is strange mostly because it has supremely twisted vocals, which sound like some stoned hippy mantra from Jesus as a black man. These characterful vocals are utilised by some, but not all, of the remixers.

Mark Pritchard’s track goes all spaghetti western on top of Gonjasufi’s cod-mysticism, while Bibio gives it a groove makeover, and halfway through the track, lays on super-hard percussion and a ringing funk guitar. Dam Mantle’s mix accentuates that demented voice and dubs it up, while Broadcast provide a very dusty-sounding cassette-tape cut-up with birdsong, which goes all baroque with oboe and harp before spooking out. And so it goes… it’s an eleven-track outing which surprises as much as it bamboozles.

While The Caliph’s Tea Party doesn’t endear itself to hi-fi nerds (like me), it does show that there are creative minds out there constructing and deconstructing musical materials, and making art out of the very degradation that those looking for clarity at all price would run screaming for the hills to avoid. Probably. GARY STEEL

SOUND = 2.5

MUSIC = 3.5

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