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Prefuse 73 - Security Screenings

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Artist: Prefuse 73

Album: Security Screenings

Label: Warp

Review date: Mar. 13, 2006

Forgoing guest MC appearances, Scott Herren's Security Screenings plays in a more DJ Shadow-meets-electronica vein. If Steinski were as influenced by Amon Tobin and Kid606 as by the history of hip-hop, he might come up with this album. Some might call it "abstract hip-hop," but it's perhaps more accurate to consider it a truly modern amalgam of influences. At a time when music is easier to find than ever before, it makes sense that someone would listen to both Lesser and RZA, Spacer and El-P, with results that rest uneasily in any one category.

What's perhaps most impressive about Security Screenings is the deft balance displayed by Herren. Noisy, experimental sections are evened out by doses of melodicism; for every scissored beat, there's an injection of steady kick-snare to help you bob your head. "No Origin" is a good example, with quickly intercut voices, horns and assorted noises laid down over a solid drum break. Without that anchor, the hyper-editing would leave listeners hanging, but with the drums to hold onto, the chaos is kept nicely under control. Clever melodic snippets like the rather pretty (DJ Shadow) sounds in "Weight Watching" are also scattered throughout, like diamonds in coal.

The flip-side weakness to the album is that, in the final analysis, each song seems to meander through its few minutes and out the other end without having really traveled very far. That's not a deadly problem because Herren wisely keeps the songs generally to under three minutes, many of them much shorter, and the album flows more or less continuously for its 41 minutes. Because of that, the songs don't have to sit on their own; they exist as part of the overall album. Nonetheless, it feels as if each song is based around a set of samples and a single idea, rather than being based around a story or concept. That is, they arrive whole, say their piece, and end. There's not much evolution, nor is there a complicated structure.

The album consists obvious skill and technical finesse, and there's no arguing that it's pretty entertaining – the sense of humor that comes through is also reminiscent of the great Steinski. But there's the nagging sense that it's all sound and fury...

By Mason Jones

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