Published Aug 17, 2016Welcome to Callus, a barren land of cutthroat honesty and ominous terrain. Gonjasufi's latest is an album of pain and suffering, blinding like the sun and scorched like the desert.
Perhaps it's because it was recorded between Gonjasufi's home in the California badlands and the even less forgiving, sin-ridden land of Las Vegas, or maybe it was the time leading up to album's four-year recording process that inspired its arid nature as much as the locations in which it was recorded. After being allegedly swindled by PR company Elastic on his European tour a few years ago, Gonjasufi returned home broke, distraught and understandably fuming at his prospects. He felt abandoned by the music industry, and so he set to work in his basement, on tattered equipment, to begin healing his own wounds, creating his own callus. As Gonjasufi himself puts it, "That's the callus. How can you not be in pain? It ain't about getting past that shit. It's about growing into it."
So, with a voice that's somewhere between Tom Waits, a prophet of doom and a bucket of rusty nails, Gonjasufi pours his soul into Callus's 19 tracks. Between the muted drawl of opener "Your Maker" and the twisted nursery rhyme of closing track "Last Nightmare" lies some of the most tortured music to ever enter Warp Records' vaults, not to mention Gonjasufi's. The closest thing to upbeat on the record, and coincidentally one of its best tracks, is "Prints of Sin," which sounds almost like mid-'90s Beck, if he'd been beaten to a pulp and robbed of his livelihood. A number of tracks here also feature the Cure guitarist Pearl Thompson, who adds an apocalyptic layer on top of what's already a stark slab of woe.
Callus is a harrowing experience, not for the faint of heart. It's more of a preach than a rap, at times more post-rock than hip-hop, the overall experience something akin to hearing slam poetry at knifepoint. This is Gonjasufi shining a light on the darkness in the world, music and, ultimately, in himself too. (Warp)