PREFUSE 73: Preparations / Interregnums (Warp Records)


Posted on Oct 10th 2007 12:48 pm

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Prefuse 73: Preparations

Warp Records 2007
14 Tracks. 46mins12secs

Of his many incarnations, Prefuse 73 is perhaps the one Guillermo Scott Herren remains best known for. It is most definitely the one project that has allowed him to push the boundaries of his work the most, with seminal albums Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives and One Word Extinguisher and even more so, their companion mini albums, serving as benchmark for the more experimental side of contemporary hip-hop. In 2005, Herren followed his logical development path by teaming up with a wide range of hip-hop and rap artists for the utterly brilliant Surrounded By Silence. Since, his deliveries have lacked some of the luster of earlier releases. After a rather tepid output as Savath & Savalas earlier this year and an unusually subdued first single, The Class Of 73 Bells, with twin sisters Claudia and Alejandra Deheza, AKA School Of Seven Bells, Guillermo Scott Herren gets back to the grind and faces expectations with his latest slice of Prefused beats and grooves.

Preparations marks a definite move in a new direction for Herren. While he still regularly dissects beats and grooves with digital precision, this album pays a much clearer tribute to his musicianship. An accomplished instrumentalist who was made to learn the cello while growing up, he uses here a vast array of instruments, including cello, piano, guitar bass, flute, clarinet, drums, which he plays, samples and applies to create the impression of an ensemble at work. This undeniably sets Preparations onto a rather different orbit. While previous offerings owed much to turntablism and digital processing and were, almost because of this, rather frenetic affairs, this latest opus is much more subtle and paced. Recent single The Class Of 73 Bells is a deceptively straightforward and accessible piece of psychedelic pop which shares with the Savath & Savalas of Appropa’t or Golden Pollen a taste for sun-drenched melodies and arrangements. Girlfriend Boyfriend and Norecaster Cheer appear to stem from a similar ground. Gentle melodies and peaceful grooves, with just a hint of grit for good measure.

Elsewhere, the tone is a tad more edgy. While Prog Version Slowly Crushed doesn’t appear hugely different from the above at first, the title gives something of a clue as to what is being done here as the comatose beat and lush melodic swathes which develop over the first two and a half minutes of the piece become progressively sleepier, until they appear to collapse on themselves, crushed, it seems, by the sheer weight of their inertia. Aborted Hugs is a much more intricate piece where avant-garde and dirty groove cohabit in rather harmonious fashion. On Let It Ring, Herren creates a dense sonic blanket over which he drops a slow-moving beat and discreet electronics. After the angular undertones of 17 Seconds Interlude, the mood becomes once again stickier with I Knew You Were Gonna Go and Spaced + Dissonant, while Pomade Suite Version One is a playful collage and Preparation Outro Version exits on a strangely hypnotic note.

There are moments when the Prefuse of old resurfaces, more prominently on Smoking Red, which features Battles drummer John Stanier, but the compulsive cut and paste nature of early Prefuse albums has largely been replaced with much more measured and self-conscious beats and melodies that owe much to Herren’s Latin roots.

Preparations takes a while to reveal its depth, and when its many layers become more obvious, it is clear that this album lacks some of the sharpened edges and abrasive twists that have, until now, been Herren’s staple diet as Prefuse 73. Yet, repeat listens eventually highlight the pedigree of the music, and while not reaching the excellence of his three previous albums, Preparations still manages to convince enough to make it a very decent addition to Herren’s discography.

Initial copies of the album come with a second CD entitled Interregnums, which collects fifteen instrumental extensions of the orchestral montages developed for Preparations. Here, Guillermo Scott Herren almost completely obliterates his usual beat-intensive constructions to focus on pieces which are in turn light and airy or dark and moody. Beats only seem to materialize in wire frame form, simple scraps made up of discreet electronic interferences and noises, usually placed quite far in the mix, leaving Herren’s cinematic orchestral assemblages to do the hard work. If these might well surprise, they are also rather convincing and could well signal a whole new direction for Herren to explore.


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