on 24 March 2005
After an initial lot of hot bother over his One Word Extinguisher LP, it was starting to seem that Scott Herren's (aka Prefuse 73) distinctly jarring style of spasmodic hip hop had nowhere left to go. His last set of releases and remixes indicated that his music was running out of things to say except show off that impressive programming technique. One reviewer was wondering if it was now just a pre-set on his computer. In short, he was becoming a victim of his own innovation.
Or at least he would have been, had he not moved to Barcelona, met the singer Eva Pueylo and made some sweet, sad Catalan songs under the alias of Savath and Savalas. The albums he made under this guise (Aprop'at and Manana) had no bearing on his Prefuse methods. This seems to have totally reinvigorated his Prefuse work, and given him a chance to see it from an outside perspective, perhaps to get less overwhelmed by those juttering beats and to let the melodies shine through more, to think more about song writing in an old fashioned sense.
I say all this because this is exactly what Surrounded by Silence sounds like. It is an excellent record. Even better than One Word Extinguisher, which in comparison seems limited in scope. Prefuse has got the big guns out for this LP, and must be determined that his sound be heard by a wider audience. Just look at the collaborations: Ghostface, Masta Killah, GZA, TY. Big hip hop names who clearly have an appreciation for Prefuse's methods (not so surprising, a glance at One Word's sleevenotes show that Destiny's Child are fans of Herren's music).
But this is not just a celebrity guest record. Herren has clearly put a lot of hard work and emotion into this record. Its filled with great songwriting which uses his bleeps and crunches at the service of the music and not the other way round. A 60's and 70's approach to soul and pop comes through in the horns, folk samples and psychedelic backing vocals. At the same time, the record sounds more like old Detroit Techno. It builds it electronic loops and synth beats up rather than throw them around in the blender as soon as you've heard them.
Alright, put it more simply: The styles on this record range from hip hop to latin to folk and electronica. Yet it all sounds like only one man could have made it. It all works brilliantly, and is so accessible while keeping its identity that you wonder if Herren might just succeed in getting a bigger audience for his work. It probably won't do to the extent that you'd hope, but he may just join his friend RJD2 in attaining a DJ Shadow like level of popularity. Lets just hope Pharrell Williams hears this record: a fan of Squarepusher and Aphex Twin, this would be right up his alley. Then people may start to listen.
on 21 May 2005
This has been one of the joys of the year for me. Repeatedly finding its way into my CD player, I've not got bored of this album at all. In fact, with each listen it gets better and better, sounding fresher and more brilliant the more I hit the play button.
I like to think of this as hip hop as seen through the eyes of Autechre's Gantz Graf machine. The opening few tracks of the album treat you to some intricate splintered samples that fly around your ears. Expertly produced so that it doesn't sound like a jumbled mess, the Prefuse 73 mastery of samples comes from a different school of thought to the seamlessly slick RJD2 and DJ Shadow. Samples fly in like ricocheting bullets, tearing through in reverse before timestretching away into the distance. I love the way the tracks crash into each other, almost like when you flick round radio stations quickly to be confronted by a bit of country and western before a crackle of static occurs and switch to another genre hits you. Its sometime surreal but highly compelling, it has the cLOUDDEAD ideal that any noise is worthy sample material and it can be treated in any way Mr Prefuse sees fit. Things like taking the 'groany moany' adlibbing from a vocalists singing and piecing it together in a bizarre rhymic melody, classy and original. Plus you get the perfect split between the instrumental experimentalism and the slightly more straight laced MC led tracks featuring the likes of Aesop Rock.
With the sun starting to make its presence known, this is a perfect album for the summer vibe. It has the ability to hold your attention from album beginning to album end, catching you up in soaring walls of sound and laid back grooves. A top one this and no mistake.