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Prefuse 73 - Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian

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Artist: Prefuse 73

Album: Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian

Label: Warp

Review date: May. 6, 2009

Guillermo Scott Herren’s side projects each bare out his multifaceted approach to composition. Savath & Savalas studies in Catalan folk. Piano Overlord is a strict rendering of Rhodes piano and bookshelf breaks. Delarosa & Asora was an earthier take on the Warp label’s original agenda. Recent project Diamond Watch Wrists, with drummer Zach Hill, stitches acid-pop to the bombast of prog. As Prefuse 73, Herren integrates and reconciles these conflicting tones. His latest LP, Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian is another sinuous but seamless blend of the organic and synthetic, embodying the hand-in-everything spirit of hip hop.

Herren’s a static masseuse. A minister of distending pitch. And his cursor is always set at the highest sensitivity. He loops incidental actions like suddenly halted vinyl or creaking doors, and dispatches them strategically into the percolating fray. Kryloned-hydrants spray digital glitter against beats the texture of tennis volleys. Reclaimed aural detritus permeates space, like manhole steam or emission clouds above projects. Taking a page from William Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis, a number of Ampexian’s songs paint the urban landscape as an active, breathing environment.

Stunted communication is another recurring theme. The instrumentation, like the human voices, echo and stutter as if they’re stranded or held captive, letting off an aura of illegible prose. The female voice in particular has always played an integral part of the Prefuse construct. School Of Seven Bells singer Claudia Deheza harmonizes with herself on half the tracks, recalling a less articulate Trish Keenan. On “Whipcream Eyepatch,” she returns like intermittent wind, piercing the swelling tension. Underneath, the beats are never left to hypnotize. “Punish” has a relatively harder kick, atypical of the usual treatment, but crowded intersections of amplified debris box the forward motion. From the beginning, Herren has been less concerned with the lower end than with molding densely-populated globes of resonance. His hip hop is often stripped of testosterone, a reason Ampexian has a more unabridged flow than the MC party Surrounded By Silence. His specialty is channeling the rhythmic undercurrent. It’s what ties Everything together. His records are about the excursion, not the ends. Titles hint at incalculable analytics. “DEC Machine Funk All ERAs,” “Fantasy Sex Scale” and “Periodic Measurements of Infrequent Frowns” all play into the endless-quest sequencing. Every aspect of the project is designed to plant new seeds of contemplation.

Some of the shortest tracks pack the most in. “Get Em High” is 30 seconds of unabashed Native Tongue bump before headnod turns to furrowed brow and paranoia sets in. On “When Is A Good Time?,” Trugoy the Dove is high on mesculine in an exotic bird house. “Fountains Of Spring” gets filtered and flanged back to the previous season. Other spots score imaginary scenes like “Violent Bathroom Exchange” and the Christmas-in-Havana “Yuletide.”

Only six of the 29 tracks reach three minutes. Lukewarm canto “Formal Dedications” blurs the line between Eric Dolphy and Susan Alcorn, as a standup bass gets tripped up like Kid Koala’s “Drunk Trumpet.” Epic in Prefuse dimensions, “Digan Lo”’s windsurf detours are a deep breath amid the insistent pace. Herren sings on the vocoder ballad “Simple Loop Choir,” the only track where the rhythm shuts in on itself. It feels like an eternity in the framework of the album. “Regato” nestles into a Clube Da Esquina sway alongside a close-mic’d open-face watch.

A précis of the Prefuse aesthetic, the record apexes when a buoyant diva is transformed into a synthesizer on “Nature’s Uplifting Revenge.” It’s what Herren does best, renovating the recognizable and contextualizing the alien. On the LP cover, a lone space traveler walks a lush, mountainous terrain that looks like Earth. It could be perceived as the lens through which Scott Herren views hip hop.

By Jake O'Connell

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Surrounded by Silence

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