On his fourth studio album under the Prefuse 73 moniker, Guillermo Scott Herren attempts to recreate the exhilarating, chaotic smorgasbord he found on the fantastic One Word Extinguisher, but the end result is so bloated it’s not digestible.
For the past six years, Herren has been at the forefront of the glitch-hop genre, weaving bent-circuit drums and digital signals through a hip-hop framework. Since making a name for himself with a jazzy, sample-heavy debut, Prefuse has produced a string of albums that have helped define glitch hop. Unfortunately, this album shows the genre’s potential for disaster.
What makes One Word Extinguisher so satisfying is how surprising its fragmented vocal samples and synth spurts are. Just listen to the awesome segue from “The Wrong Side of Reflection (Intro)” to “The End of Biters – International.”
The intro to Preparations doesn’t surprise or lead to a banger. Instead, it fast-forwards, rewinds, puts vocals on top of vocals and then deflates – and all of this in 32 seconds. The album follows suit; songs swell up with clashing drums, high-pitched synths and indistinguishable noise resulting in a total lack of surprise.
Take the track “Prog Version Slowly Crushed,” which begins with clicks that sound like electronic raindrops before swelling so much the muted melody gets lost in the wall of sound. It’s there, but it isn’t allowed any space to stand out. Likewise, “Smoking Red” throbs with pounding drums and random reversed vocal loops, forgoing any kind of isolation that would help organize the songs jumbled elements.
The strongest moments on the album are when Herren stops cramming as many ideas as possible into one track and just lets the rhythm dictate its own direction. On “Girlfriend Boyfriend,” the steady beat and glitch-inserts saunter together. The track is simple and directional. Unfortunately, its appeal might just stem from its dissemblance from the rest of the album.
2005’s Surrounded By Silence could easily be considered a Prefuse-produced mix tape. On that album, the 14-odd guest spots keep Herren’s overflowing creativity at bay. Here, Prefuse invites several cameo performances with varying success. “The Class of 73 Bells” features indie-psyche trio School of Seven Bells adding eerie vocal mantras to Prefuse’s dramatic composition. Elsewhere the guest contributions are hardly discernable. I can’t exactly tell what electronic artist Tobias Lilja adds to the track “17 Seconds Interlude,” unless the goal is to mirror Prefuse. The truth is that none of these guest spots can compare to previous ones – from the industrial taunt “Hideyaface” featuring Ghostface and El-P on Silence or even his surprisingly good collaboration with Sam Prekop on his debut album.
With Prefuse, it’s never a question of artistic creativity. Each track on the album bustles with instrumental exploration and melody jumping. But this time it doesn’t work. The result is us grappling to his first great albums while pleading for him just to keep it simple. After all, the dude has four bands – you’d think that’d be enough.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars