Chaotic samples and enveloping beats – Prefuse 73 is at it again
With previous aliases including Ahmad Szabo, Piano Overlord, Delarosa & Asora and Savath & Savalas, American producer Guillermo Scott Herren has worn more hats than a coat rack. But the name missing from that list is the one he’s best known for – Prefuse 73.
‘Rivington Não Rio’ is the first Prefuse 73 album to appear on a label other than Warp Records, who released Herren’s debut way back in 2001. The reason for his flight from Warp remains a mystery, with nothing on ‘Rivington Não Rio’ inducing the type of revolutionary mood shift that might make a record company think twice. In fact, despite it being four years since the previous Prefuse 73 album, ‘The Only She Chapters’, there seems to be little distinction between Herren’s latest outing and ‘Security Screenings’, a peak release from 2006.
For those unfamiliar with his work, Herren packs a lot into his productions, which are sometimes crudely, yet always fascinatingly, stitched together via a colourful palette of found sounds. His instrument of choice is the Akai MPC series, a standalone music production controller originally designed by Roger Linn (of Linn Drum fame). Although initially intended to function as a drum machine, the unit allows you to assign samples to its large rubber pads and make tracks intuitively using its in-built MIDI sequencer.
The results may occasionally sound rather chaotically produced, but perseverance usually rewards, as the mesh of sampled vocals and field recordings settle into a fragile amalgamation of abstract melancholic tones. On ‘Rivington Não Rio’, this technique appears as prevalent as ever, albeit certainly more refined. The 11 tracks here feature sustained musical passages – the short, dark intro ‘Senora 95’, for example.
‘Applauded Assumptions’ is less typical of Herren’s approach, featuring an often uneasy juxtaposition of rapid-fire sounds and spliced beats. Throughout the album, few notes seem to hold themselves beyond a couple of seconds and vocal samples are integrated in much the same way. There are exceptions, however: the more traditionally sung ‘Quiet One’ (featuring Rob Crow), ‘Infrared’ (featuring Sam Dew), and Milo & Busdriver’s motivating twin rap on ‘140 Jabs Interlude’.
‘Rivington Não Rio’ is another interesting release from Prefuse 73, riddled with unfathomable electronic expressions that combine to create some genuinely explorative patterns. That said, it’s nothing we’ve not heard from Guillermo Scott Herron before. In itself, his unique method of sound creation has perhaps become rather self-indulgent and repetitious, but for those new to Prefuse 73, he’s still capable of providing sublime moments.