||Gonjasufi returns with his latest album Callus this August! Written and recorded over the span of 4 years, split between Las Vegas and Gonjasufi's home in the California desert, Callus is undeniably the musician's most soul-baring and cathartic collection. It is about embracing hurt and anger to create something... "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."
Produced by Gonjasufi, Callus also features former The Cure guitarist Pearl Thompson on several tracks.
“I peeled through all these layers to get to the core,” Sufi explains. “I channeled all the misunderstanding and misery and torment—that’s what it is, torment—into this.”
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Callus begins with a musical grimace.
The solitary drums enter first, their slow syncopation and rifle-shot echo setting a tone of instant, obdurate menace. The cacophony of a crowd and the oscillation of electronics pass beneath the beat, shaping veins of discord and discontent. A guitar shrieks with feedback and snarls with distortion, the teeth bared for the start of some very significant statement.
And then it arrives, the voice of singer, producer, and deeply existential sage Gonjasufi, delivered from the pit of the stomach like a last will and testament. “Is anybody private?” he bellows, his pitched tone suggesting a desperate quest for breath. “Is anything sacred?”
This is the countenance of Callus, Gonjasufi’s third album for Warp Records and the most challenging and raw recording of his career. In the past, Gonjasufi’s music, however dissonant it became, would faithfully drift ahead, as if buoyed by the same heightened state as his yoga practice. But for these nineteen tracks, created during the last five years and in three studios scattered across two states, Gonjasufi exposes the scars of a lifetime, digging beneath the surface coat of a callus to strike nerves and expose his reality. If the earliest Gonjasufi records suggested an effort to overcome, the scowling violin drone and electronically mangled vocals of “Poltergeist” and colossal riff and crushing rhythm of “The Kill” make it clear that he’s now facing them, sans fear or hesitation. This is the other side of Gonjasufi, then, ready to battle for what he believes.
When he talks about Callus, he details the ordeals he’s had to endure during the last several years—the razor’s edge between success as an artist and privacy as a person, between image and reality, between music-industry expectations and personal comfort, between old friends and new jealousy.
“That’s the callus,” he says. “How can you not be in pain? It ain’t about getting past that shit. It’s about growing into it.”
He’s grown to square up against it, too, to fight back. During “Maniac Depressant,” he lashes out like some industrial warrior, his screams charging against gnarled guitar. Over the big, head-rattling beat of “The Conspiracy,” he rejects the complacence of unquestioned belief systems and pushes away combatants and demons. “Get your devil off of me,” he harmonizes with himself in a lucid moment of deep soul singing. There are perfect hooks here, like those of the unfurling “Ole Man Sufferah” or the throbbing “Vinaigrette,” but they represent hard-won victories.
“I peeled through all these layers to get to the core,” he explains. “I channeled all the misunderstanding and misery and torment—that’s what it is, torment—into this. It’s the most painful experience ever.”
Negotiating that pain on record required some time and some new skills. In the four years since 2012’s MU.ZZ.LE, Gonjasufi admits he has worked to become a better musician, to better understand scales and chords and the mechanics lurking beneath the music. The Cure guitarist Pearl Thompson plays on three of these tracks and, through close collaboration, showed Gonjasufi new ways to approach songs. In the past, Gonjasufi’s records have summoned worlds of sound, with ideas and instruments imported from across the globe. Here, he sculpts it all—synthesizer drone and sitar riffs, static walls and industrial beats—into a unified journey.
“Knowing what key stuff is played in has opened up a new world up for me,” he says. “It’s what I have been searching for forever.”
He started many of these songs in Las Vegas, then decamped to Atwater Village in Los Angeles, before taking the tracks home to a small town in the Mojave Desert reshape them completely in isolation. He found the space to confront these personal challenges, new skills in tow. The struggle of the process fit the struggle of the material itself. Sound and source alike bleed from every pore of Callus, an album that wields the drama of existence as a weapon for liberation.
“It has to be authentic. Fuck a filter. Just throw the mic to the tape,” he says. “This is love. All the pain and misunderstanding still burns, but I’m here to pull all that into me and give something that will help everybody get through that. No one can stop it.”
Callus is out on Warp Records.