My fascination with death has always stemmed from the imagination of an afterlife or the existence of an alternative form of energy. The complexity and emotionally demanding nature of such a subject has always made it difficult for me to talk about with other people.
Music has become one of the few forms of communication that has allowed me to explore such a topic, and with The Gaslamp Killer having survived a possibly life-ending injury through a scooter accident in the summer of 2013, another thesis about death has been written and recorded. The Gaslamp Killer’s first album since his debut 2012 project ‘Breakthrough’ was really a revelation for him and music listeners alike. Having been a DJ in Los Angeles for more than 10 years, his first album allowed him to create his own universe.
As he beautifully quoted in a recent interview with Philip Cosores for Bandcamp, “a set is gone as soon as it’s finished. An album is forever.” A hellish trip through psychedelia, electronics and oriental rhythms, ‘Breakthrough’ was an album cherished by critics and music fans alike. The difference between ‘Breakthrough’ and his new sophomore 2016 release ‘Instrumentalepathy’ is a subtle but an important one. While his first project is heavy to the ears with abrasive hard-hitting rhythms, his second favours a more subtle, melodic and chilling experience. The opener, “Pathetic Dreams” with Kid Moxie and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson on strings is an example of this subtlety in sound, with layers of synths and gorgeous string arrangements building up towards an epic conclusion.
It is clear that ‘Intrumentalepathy’ signifies musical and mental progression for The Gaslamp Killer. Musically, his ideas on his sophomore album are much clearer and well defined, as well as having a richer sound as well. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson’s involvement with the strings as well as Gaslamp’s willingness to concentrate his talents on synth progressions and melody pays off extremely well, with the lead single “Residual Tingles” being a perfect example of how he’s able to interpolate a pulsating beat with synth progressions and string arrangements effortlessly, producing a clear highlight within the album. The hypnosis of ‘Listen for My Whistle’ and the density of ‘Good Morning’ with Gonjasufi produce some of the heavier, more dense sounds on the album. Going back to the theme of death, the emotional feeling I get with this album is one of uncertainty.
The difference in tempo and depth of instrumentation creates an intriguing listening experience, and it seems like The Gaslamp Killer is able to translate his musical interpretation of death into a situation of uncertainty, anxiousness, fear, but simultaneously a sense of peace in a world where being afraid of death is the norm. ‘Intstrumentalepathy’ is a beautiful musical achievement.