The Gaslamp Killer // Breakthrough // September 17 // Brainfeeder
C’mon, you know Gaslamp Killer don’t you? William Bensussen is the man behind the Brainfeeder signee who makes instrumental hip hop that fits closely with the Brainfeeder sound while also acting as a producer for other acts. He is the one responsible for producing the dividing Gonjasufi debut A Sufi And A Killer. With all that in mind, you’ll be surprised to learn that Breakthrough is Gaslamp Killer’s debut LP and after everything that he has done, it can certainly feel underwhelming.
In a way Breakthrough is another representation of the Brainfeeder sound, the roughly cut takes on instrumental hip hop with some guest vocals brought in from time to time which themselves only help by making everything even more abstract. It’s certainly doesn’t live up to its name as it feels more like a collection of ideas that are too weird and doesn’t lead into actual songs. Take moments like Critic with is sparse percussion, a track that ignores any and all songwriting or even basic progression and feels like a quick, unfinished idea. Mother, the sound of someone who just bought his first MPC is truly disgusting and disappointing, it’s not 90s anymore, we all know how sampling works. Same with Dead Vets which plays around with 70s psych rock just to fizzle out without delivering anything that would hit the listener, fittingly it ends right before a guitar riff goes into an overdrive. Breakthrough is a rough album, a compilation of ideas that can sometimes be the sound of an artist in love with his own noise. But unlike good albums from that category, like the latest Actress LP, Breakthrough is not trying new things. It recycles a single acid rock inspired beatific idea that is not going to work out no matter how hard Bensussen tries.
Ignore these critical flaws at your own peril. Breakthrough might sound like an idea of its own that is unparalleled within the Brainfeeder universe and while credit to Gaslamp Killer for having a darker, almost krautrock influence among his peers who come close to the dancefloor friendly beats, it’s not the most original thing to come out on the label. A lot of Breakthrough uses the same rough cut techniques and collage aesthetic that DJ Shadow used in his early career. Breakthrough is no Endtroducing though as while that album combined hip hop and ambiance to deliver something that was both catchy and weightless, Breakthrough feels like it has the weight of the whole planet on its shoulders. The two tracks featuring Gonjasufi are particularly heavy. Same with Nissim, the second longest track on here that features nothing but sitar playing for before introducing a basic beat to go along with it, creative. In the weed friendly circles we’re dealing with here, credit to Gaslamp Killer as few artists can make their music sound as stoned as Veins and Apparitions and Nissim. Regretfully the rest of the album feels more like a poorly oiled machinery. Well crafted beats that lack emotion and no matter how many random sound effects Gaslamp Killer uses, it just can’t even come close to feel like it’s music for high times.
Breakthrough is a weird record that doesn’t set out to achieve much and doesn’t disappoint in that regard. It’s acid instrumental hip hop with its roots set in psychedelic rock, coming across as, excuse the term - krauthop. It’s nowhere near as good as it sounds though as the tracks on here don’t take the listener on a trip. It feels more like a tour around a truly fucked up factory and in the end you don’t even get a lollipop. Oh and right in the middle of the album there’s a two minute vocal interlude that samples a man teaching how to use the word fuck in the sentence. So edgy! It does teach the listener how to describe their feelings toward Breakthrough. “Fuck this fucking album fuck”. Ditto.