Prefuse 73 - "The Only Hand To Hold (feat. Shara Worden)" (The Only She Chapters)
The music of Guillermo Scott Herren follows a paradigm, if only one that applies to the galaxy of his orbiting monikers. His narratives are built out of audio texture mapping, ie. the musical end product is not created from a vertically layered combination of direct sources, but of a multitude of lateral sounds that are skewed and interwoven to create something almost exceeding two dimensions. These textures are built out of carefully recorded sounds. These samples – often by experienced and talented musicians other than himself – are spliced and re-threaded, not so much as a crutch to songwriting, but rather as an unwavering appreciation of a prismatic aesthetic.
As Delarosa + Asora or Ahmad Szabo, the textures are skittering and emanating from low-tier equipment. As Savath + Savalas, they are autobiographical and gossamer. As Piano Overlord, they are skeletal. As a member of A Cloud Mireya, Risil or Diamond Wrist Watches, they are the force that refuses to let linear songwriting even enter the room. And as Prefuse 73, they are the point.
The Only She Chapters sounds inebriated. Each snare hit has a tail of diminishing echoes, and each ping of a sample is followed by a ripple of overtones. The diversity of rhythms is on par, but each one is unfurled at a snail’s pace. Melodies peak around the usual backdrop pastiche, but they are swaying amidst the drowsily nodding tempos. “The Only Valentine’s Day Failure” sounds like a King Tubby 45 at 33 RPMs. The eddying vocal samples of “The Only Serenidad” must have been created with the audio equivalent of a slowly rotating Paint ’n’ Swirl. During “The Only Trial of 9000 Suns”, the late Trish Keenan (R.I.P.) sounds less like the aloof retro-pop princess she was than that confusing final conversation you had leaving the bar with the pretty girl in the tangerine dress.
The production drawl may come off gimmicky at first glance, but Herren has always been one to explore themes from moniker to moniker and album to album. More often than not, they are successful. The Only She Chapters is no exception. It all seems to make sense during the simmering sounds (echoing cymbals, slinking sine waves and Niki Randa’s swelling coos) of “The Only Boogie Down” or the crawling One Word Extinguisher throwback, “The Only Way to Find,” which features the vocal cascades of Nico Turner hovering amidst a cloud of oscillating noises. For the heads that look to Herren for his forward-thinking throwback beats, they may be disappointed by the navel-gazing of it all (though, Herren may have actually lost them a few records back). For those listeners who gravitate toward him for his dexterity of sound manipulation (i.e. the moniker-hoppers), Herren delivers.
To manipulate a piece of pop psychology, musical character emerges gradually out of the mysterious interplay of any number of musical experiments and influences. For a musician who excels at pasting these experiments together, however minutely, you would think that a clear explanation would be found by slowing everything down to see exactly what is going into each second of composition. (This being opposed to say a guitar player who uses his/her influences in more of an abstract way of technique and recreation.) With The Only She Chapters, Herren completely debunks that idea. Slowed down, the only thing revealed is how seamless his stitching his, how clever his adjunctions are and how much musicianship it takes to create a good sample-based record.