“I’m ready to sprout my leafy head through the soil of the next world” -Aaron Kelly-Penso ('18)
Let's set the scene for Gwashed Out: Chief Goonda lurches grimly, rapping in a heavy-lidded drawl over a Steamboat-Willie-meets-Madlib beat courtesy of Frankie Gloss. The Chief spits a nimble and oddly in-depth verse about ordering shawarma with Tahini sauce and “the rices.” A squeaky voice enters the aural melée —it's Tash Poli, the imaginary sidekick that will soon follow Goonda and Gloss to the outer reaches of our universe in search of interplanetary dining rooms. The song breaks into a sample of an untraceable 40s cartoon, and the entire cast rockets into space.
Welcome to the world of Gwashed Out. Forewarning: you may never make it back to earth.
Goonda Gloss is the newly minted rap duo of Will Freudenheim ('18) —Frankie Gloss— and Aaron Kelly-Penso ('18) —Chief Goonda. These two unassuming sophomores who share the cramped quarters of a Westco Double have crafted one of the most bizarre releases this side of 2016, entitled Gwashed Out.
The two met within the first days of Freshman year and bonded over a delirious sense of humor and an aesthetic that places them comfortably in between Runescape references, MF DOOM sing-alongs and the sound your garbage compactor makes. Kelly-Penso and Freudenheim started out making “goof” tracks, throwing ideas back and forth in a fever of late nights, altered mind states and endless attempts to out-weird one another. Coming together last spring under the name Chief Hunter Jack, they put out 2015’s Powata, a mixtape-gone-EP that the duo are quick to dismiss as nowhere near the quality of Gwashed Out. From this humble reviewers perspective, the duo are too self critical, and this first release snuck its way into my most listened records of 2015. The sound they crafted—a loose blend of bouncing surreal rap, laced with Kelly-Penso's untraceable accents and a penchant for warbly pitched vocals—immediately cut through stacks of other carbon-copy records I had heard. I am happy to report that Gwashed Out lives up to the hype of the first record, and in many ways surpasses it.
The record charts a multitude of characters as they search for interplanetary tapas bars, shawarma, hotel drink-ups and the sage wisdom of the almighty GWASH.
The new album, a self described, “Sci-fi lo-fi rap album” finds the team striking out into decidedly conceptual territory. Inspired by an obscure Facebook mutual friend, the eponymous Gwash, the album spans 13 blasted tracks. The record charts a multitude of characters as they search for interplanetary tapas bars, shawarma, hotel drink-ups and the sage wisdom of the almighty Gwash. Just reading the laundry list of pseudonyms and guest rappers featured on their albums, you get a sense of the humor that guides the two auteurs: Gink, Gun Dog, BugBird, Thunderbunny as well as many more receive lip service from Chief Goonda’s wonky flow. But all of the gags and in-house references would be irrelevant without actual music to back up the absurdity. Luckily, the tunes on this record are phenomenal.
Propelled by Freudenheim’s space disco beats, the songs flow in a psychedelic progression, interspersed with old pop samples, smooth jazz keyboards and bass lines that sound like Thundercat filtered through a jell-o casserole. The tracks have a tendency to disorient, and the filtered samples mixed with slightly off-kilter drums keep the listener hovering in a delirious funk. In our Downstairs-Usdan interview, Freudenheim and Kelly-Penso described the beats as invoking Charlie Chaplin in their bouncy comedic stupor. It seems almost criminal to tie down this ephemeral music to a specific time and place, but it is amusing to step back and realize the two sweethearts sitting in front of me slurping up a 5pm meal are behind these insane musical escapades.
“We want people to like it. A bit.” - Will Freudenheim
Don’t be taken aback by the oddness of this description, Gwashed Out is accessible and should immediately resonate with 20-something night owls tuned in to HomestarRunner or Adult Swims bizzaro lineup. Aaron and Will are also aware of their outsider status within the music scene here, but they are quick to point out, “We want people to like it. A bit.”
“A lot of what rap has meant to me,” Penso pontificates while munching on a plate full of suspect Usdan lentils, “is not worrying what you sound like. Don’t mind sounding like an idiot.” It is this fearlessness, and its shroud of total oddity that catapults Gwashed Out into the realm of real art, and dare I say, real hip-hop.
But fuck being real, I’d rather be on the CQ15 spaceship with Gwash, Goonda and Frankie, destined for tapas on Pluto.
Take me with you Goonda Gloss, I want to be in space.
Click through the rest of our impromptu photo session below: