Published May 19, 2014With a champagne flute in hand, his fluffy beard and 'fro rivalling the bellowing shagginess of Reggie Watts, William Benjamin Bensussen brought his raw Gaslamp Killer persona to the Fortune stage well after midnight, this being the Sunday of Canada's May long weekend (Happy Victoria Day!). Surely, even Queen Victoria herself would have found much to admire in his well-curated, high-energy live set this evening. Dropping some classic psychedelic sounds early, including a verse from "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys, he quickly committed to giving the venue's Funktion-One Soundsystem a broad spectrum workout in the bass department, mentioning how these low frequencies would put the fear of the apocalypse into the hearts of our cave-dwelling ancestors but unite the present generation as one tribe for one fleeting yet revelatory moment.
From his Los Angeles home base, Bensussen has his finger on the pulse of the contemporary bass music scene. In an ADHD mixing style, cutting off and dropping shit without much or any transition, he presented unreleased tracks from the likes of Flying Lotus, Hudson Mohawke, EPROM, James Blake and Rustie throughout his set, contemporaries that create the perfect context for his own compositions but only scratch the surface of his cornucopia of influences. You get the sense that if you only listened to Gaslamp Killer, you could still consider yourself a reasonably well-informed music geek.
Bensussen had an admirably theatrical presence for a DJ set. He bounced around the stage enthusiastically, danced a little shoulder shuffle and threw his hands in the air, miming select hi-hats as if they were a piano. He'd often hold up his tablet, cheating it to the crowd so they could see him triggering stutter, bit crush, beat repeat, pitch shift and other such quantized effects, and tossed in a little bit of old-school scratching here and there. He was so active that, on several occasions, he pulled his tie-dyed shirt over his head like he'd scored a goal in a soccer match, a gesture executed partly in ecstasy and partly to mop the accreting sweat on his brow.
However, this Gaslamp Killer set did seem to rely more on presentation than actual performance. He spent almost as much time dancing as he did playing with sound, and many of his tweaks seemed somewhat low-risk. But he is clearly plugged in with all the right people, and his taste and command of low frequencies is impeccable, so the same set at a suitable festival would surely hit the sweet spot more thoroughly and consistently than judging it as a stand-alone concert. Plus, he didn't abuse his microphone privileges like most DJs do, which is a small miracle in itself.