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, 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. Negotiating pain on record requires some time and some new skills. In the four years since 2012's MU.ZZ.LE, Gonjasufi has grown vastly in his skills as a musician. 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. In his own words, "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"