Prefuse 73 has quite an intimidating reputation as the purveyor of squelchy deep bass lines and skittering melodic throwaways over a bed of water-tight beats. After two full lengths proper, a handful of EPs and a mini album of off cuts, it’s safe to say Scott Herren is prolific. His debut, Vocal Studies and Uprock Narratives was hailed as the rightful heir to DJ Shadow’s Entroducing and his second, One Word Extinguisher was arguably better. He is returning this year with a new album, Surrounded By Silence which is said to contain
collaborations with space rockers Broadcast, hip hop’s finest, Aesop Rock and the excellently named Tyondai Braxton. .
The first cut to make itself known amongst our collective consciousness is HideYaFace. This single, containing six different mixes features the godfather of alternative hip hop, EL-P and Wu Tang’s Ghostface. On first listen, this is a fairly routine exercise for Herren to make a warm backing track to a slightly uninspiring rap. And on a third and fourth listen, little has changed. It is when I hear the instrumental version of the track I realise that the formula is disappointingly intact. It seems Herren’s method is to record an acoustic jam (like the kind found on his other project, Savalas and Savalis) then to add reverb and other sound manipulations and processes, add a fat beat and hey presto. Track seven is very illuminating as it is that very acoustic jam in its simple, beautiful form, free from the electronic intervention. While it is a purposeless, prosaic and short piece of music, it is somehow more agreeable than the single that accompanies it.
I am not crossing Herren off my Christmas card list just yet, but let’s just say the album must provide more surprises if it will satisfy this listener.