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It’s possible that heads will never listen to an instrumental or turntablist hip-hop record without comparing it to DJ Shadow’s seminal Endtroducing. That album has reigned supreme for sixteen years as one of, if not the best, hip-hop instrumental albums ever. From the diversity of samples to the gritty vibe, even DJ Shadow himself hasn’t come close. The Gaslamp Killer flys dangerously close to the sun on this one. Like RJD2, Dilla and Flying Lotus, he’s reaching for new spaces, flipping samples and tying it all together with his own unique flavor.


You might have heard The Gaslamp Killer before, either on his earlier EP’s or on A Sufi and a Killer , which was a collaboration between himself and Gonjasufi. The album brings back that pairing on multiple tracks, the first of which, “Veins”, could be a late Beatles track if it got lost in the desert. This album contains a wide variety of samples, everything from old psychadelic sounds to futuristic buzzing and bleeping that sounds like the back alley of Blade Runner.


“Dead Vets”, which features Adrian Younge and MRR, almost could be a vintage Just Blaze production if Blaze was more Death Valley and less New York City. It features a punching organ riff and a raw guitar buzz with a slick drum sample heavy on the kick drum. This is a track just begging to be rapped over.


“Flange Face” is another that brings together so many diseparate genres and flavors its hard to know what inspired it. It veers into the space occupied by the productions of Shabazz Palaces, but maintains a faster punchier rhythm that doesn’t let up. It goes from what could be a sample from the Mediterranean or east Africa all the way to fuzzed guitar and bubbling digital beats.


Sometimes the team-ups on this album work great, but other times, as in the case of “Peasants, Cripples & Retards”, they just seem unecessary. It just does not seem like Samiyam and The Gaslamp Killer were able to mesh their sounds. There’s definitely an interesting drum pattern under all the various noises cobbled together but it never quite congeals into a single song.


“Nissim” is an interesting track, and judging from it’s sound, it sounds as if it is all instrumentation. Put together after jamming with various friends in other bands into a full fledged song reminiscent of Mediterranean rhythms, its very much like the Beastie Boys occasional own live instrumental grooves. Ultimately it works. It’s unclear if a whole album of this would have held up, but it strikes a calm effect towards the end, and is a very catchy song that was not expected to be anywhere on this album. “7 Years of Bad Luck for Fun”, which features Dimlite, almost sounds like an El-P production if only slightly less dark.


One would hope that an album called Breakthrough , if not being the best, at least goes somewhere interesting. The Gaslamp Killer definitely carves out his own niche here. He proves he has his own sound, his own lane and does the Brainfeeder crew proud.

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