Posted on July 21st, 2015 (3:00 pm) by Matt LaBarbera

Since its earliest stages, hip hop has largely been a fragmented style. Bricolage was the methodology, piecing together short samples copied onto tape from radio station broadcasts or breaks looped by spinning the records manually. These disparate elements were typically joined by the voice, maker and unmaker. However, as technology and sampling techniques advanced into the 1990s, that style took on a different role in the hands of the artist. The sample became the storyteller, the unifying unit of a song, and it was the producer’s goal to abet these sounds in the absence of a human voice. Artists such as DJ Shadow and Boards of Canada are some of the more recognizable artists who embody this resuscitative shift—one that translated from chilled-out downtempo to the herky-jerky kinetics of Flying Lotus or the menacing grind of Arca—and among them Prefuse 73. Real name Guillermo Scott Herren, Prefuse 73 marks one of the earliest entries into unabashed hip hop deconstruction, ecstatic and psychedelic collage. Following nearly a decade of mediocre full-lengths, he finally starts to re-coalesce his trademark frantic bricolage on Every Color of Darkness.

2015 has seen Herren busy, having already issued Rivington Não Rio and Forsyth Garden, and he seems to be making a statement of return after bouncing around a number of projects for the past four or so years and attaching himself to a new label. His work ethic has not diminished his quality however, as Every Color of Darkness remains the chock-a-block burst of energy one would expect from the Prefuse 73 of the early 2000s. Travelling along “Prime Meridian Narcissism” one finds loose footwork percussion, low-down horn samples, all manner of chiming and lilting synths, and vocals samples masterfully chopped up and rearranged à la DJ Victor Frankenstein. “Night of Light” has all of the glitch and pop of Prefuse 73, but the rolling bass offers the cohesion that separates a collage from a traffic jam. The intensity and freneticism of his production turns what would be overstuffed and incomplete instrumentals into something crafted, gracing the sonic wilderness with an Apolline touch.

All the better that these cuts are instrumentals. It cuts away a distraction from the density of sound. This is not music to dance to, it’s not music to mouth along with, and it’s not even music to bop your head to. This is headphones music, an opportunity to be inundated. “Skin (Outro),” at only eight seconds, cuts the figure of a populous cutting from sound to sound as the listener rushes through catching snippets of voice, running water, and the off-beat clicking of your broken motorcycle. The sheer diversity of sources is impressive in itself, but the compaction is artful. Transient, yes, but there’s enough in each moment to fill a whole song. Herren, at moments like this, realizes the potential of the fragment, investing a superabundance of significance into a sound that has been “thinged”.

Every Color of Darkness is just an EP, but the short format here serves Herren’s needs perfectly. It’s an opportunity to throw out ideas and avoid the risk of them stultifying under the weight of ludicrous runtimes. Not short and sweet, but short and screwed. All the samples are broken and twisted, but made all the better by the contortion. Appropriation and reformatting has long been a foundational approach to composition. As far back as Luigi Russolo seeking to replicate the sounds of machinery on stage, there has been a strain of music set to the task of manipulating sounds that already exist, of sculpting something out of the noise. Hip hop, even at its most mutant and shattered, is play. It collects and unifies elements claimed disparate by structure and it is through that act that extrinsic symbols come into being. Herren and Every Color of Darkness take part in this tradition of play and of bricolage. What else would you expect from someone who remixed his own EP down to fifteen seconds? However, by this point in time, the febrile style of early Prefuse 73 has filtered into the larger musical conscious through several different avenues, but it is still important recognize something done well, especially in a form marked so often by incoherence and listlessness. Though not precisely revolutionary, Every Color of Darkness does close Herren’s triptych with a strong and a cogent entry.

Track List:

  1. Wasted (Intro)
  2. Search the Sky
  3. Night of Light
  4. The Contour of Every Pitch
  5. Prime Meridian Narcissism
  6. The High Beams of Modern Survival
  7. Squares of the City
  8. Skin (Outro)
Prefuse 73 - Every Color of Darkness Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

71 / 100
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