Prefuse73: Vocal studies & uprock narratives (Warp Records, 2001)

About five years ago I was introduced to the genius that is Amon Tobin. After hearing his Bricolage album my entire taste in music changed. I traded in my baggy pants and techno for a sampler and started to study music theory. I had heard the future and I wanted to be part of it. A whole bunch kids felt and did the same.

I thought it was just the beginning back then and soon I would have tonnes of albums by a new breed of sampler monsters, crafting new sounds and visions of what rhythm and metonymy could do. I thought more classically trained musicians would embrace the emerging technology and production approaches and music would go into a sort of Renaissance. Pretty high hopes.

This didn't happen. With very few exceptions (some very wonderful) everything in the genres of breaks/hip hop/idm/nu jazz/ninja tune/warp/thrill jockey/MoWax/Drum & Bass/loud is absolute garbage. It sounds like lazy dull people on nice equipment reinterpreting the sparks that should have turned into something raging. The innovations that came were all in the software tools, interfaces and machines and not in the music itself. Prefuse73 on the other hand, while not the greatness I was hoping for, sounds fucking dope and is a good example of how we should use our gear.

Scott Herren aka Savath & Savalas aka Prefuse73 is a part of a heavily edited broken beat style of breaky hip hop, which I've heard called Electro Hip Hop, glitch hop or broken beat. The meat of it is that he samples beats and sounds and instead of just doing a little editing and looping he cuts it all into pieces adds lots of other beats and sounds and pushes a nice evolution/deconstruction throughout the track. It’s instrumental hip hop for people with short attention spans. He uses the technology to amplify his creativity rather then mask his inability. It sounds very funky and I love the falling sensations of beats coming apart and then being rebuilt. It's the tension and release that should be apart of all music.

The heavy editing sound creates a really neat contrast. On one hand it is heavily processed computer music but since you feel him working and manipulating all the elements constantly and fluidly it has a very organic feel. It's like hand crafted breaks. All the cutting up and distorting of well known samples going on reminds me of Kid 606s underground classic "the action packed mentalist brings you the fucking jams " or two songs that were on Amon Tobins last two albums. Another thing that reminds me of action packed mentalist is the percussive use of vocals that have been cut up like beats. Herren goes much further with this idea though and makes it sound like a DJ is scratching furiously over top of a track so that only portions of the vocals come through. Or it just sounds like cutup madness.

All this being said, it's not for everyone, and can seem abrasive. This type of music lends itself to the kind of people that are as interested in production and what the artist is going for as they are in how it actually sounds. Of course it sounds cool and fresh so it's for people that like that too.

The following pretty much sums up what Scott Herren is going for with hip hop.

“The name Prefuse73 comes from my devotion to pre-fusion jazz circa 1973. A lot of records that I cherish and get the most inspiration from were recorded between ‘68 and ’73. During that time there seemed to be an extreme amount of exploration and integration of new sounds drawn from electric and foreign instruments into an otherwise traditional format".

information from scott herrings website and http://www.warp-net.com

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