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Oscillations

Prefuse 73

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David Naugle

Guillermo Scott Herren has reached the point as an artist where the only person he has to really compete with is himself. Indeed, Herren has at times proved to be his own worst enemy; he had to, according to him, cancel his last tour due to "some pretty scary and challenging things to deal with regarding [his] mind and health." When well, Herren is a protean producer, prolific both in his output and his invented identities. As Prefuse 73, he's pioneered the microgenre of glitch hop—fusing IDM production with hiphop's swagger and vocals. And while he certainly has contemporaries in this field, they are generally either collaborators (such as Four Tet) or, at worst, imitators. Prefuse 73 runs a tight game, but he's clearly aiming for personal bests.

Strange then, that every Prefuse album since his debut has been labeled as outtakes. For Prefuse, the line between proper album and cutting-room floor is, like all his battles, entirely internal. If he says Security Screenings is Surrounded by Silence outtakes, then so it is, but it's just another arbitrary distinction from an already schizophrenic producer.

But beyond being some cross-promotional ploy, this method of releasing material serves to manifest Prefuse's introverted one-upmanship, allowing him to offer the listener two different visions of each Prefuse album.

In the case of One Word Extinguisher and Extinguished, the difference was one of focus—Extinguisher compressed myriad musical ideas into dense songs while Extinguished stretched things out, letting individual melodies, samples, or freestyles drive its generally brief diversions. With Surrounded by Silence and Security Screenings, the difference is one of voice, or voices: Silence is thick with guest vocalists (eliciting the critical parody of Screenings' "Illiterate Interlude") chopped and scattered into Prefuse's twitchy productions, while Screenings is relatively mute, relying more on instrumental cut and paste.

Which isn't to say that Screenings isn't a richly complicated record or that it's entirely without vocal spots. TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe guests on "We Leave You in a Cloud of Thick Smoke and Sleep Outro," but his haunting voice is stretched out into an unrecognizable drone. Prefuse tends to play pretty rough with vocals, treating them as just more sound sources for him to manipulate and reimagine. Two versions of "With Dirt and Two Texts" find Prefuse playing with chirping analog synths over his usual atmospheric tones, while "No Origin" (the album's longest track at 3:41) displays his signature combination of expertly stitched jazz sampling and dusty MPC beats. The Four Tet collaboration, "Creating Cyclical Headaches," slams spiraling piano into rising walls of guitar fuzz over three and a half minutes of a one-bar drumbeat.

In a way, Screenings is a reversal of Prefuse's slow creep away from IDM and toward abstract hiphop, but it's almost certainly not a permanent change in course. His once-solid Prefuse identity seems creatively fractured, but for fans of his many diversions, it's just that much more to love.

BEAT CONNECTIONS

FRIDAY DECEMBER 1

POLYPHONIC

CHAC's monthly showcase of "Northwest art & electronic music" mixes visual art—both old school (paintings) and new (live visuals)—with electronic standards ranging from breakbeats to dub to drum 'n' bass. This month's edition features a battle between Novatron on live gear and Shapeshifter on turntables. CHAC Lower Level, 1621 12th Ave, 388-0521, 10 pm, $5, 21+.

SUNDAY DECEMBER 3

DJ INTROCUT & DJ COLIN

Fourthcity's DJ Introcut expertly weaves a multitude of styles into broken hiphop beats, cutting and scratching with confident skill. DJ Colin displays a similarly wide selection, but while Introcut focuses on the heads, Colin aims for the booty with a repertoire of proven dance-floor killers. With Prefuse 73. Chop Suey, 1325 E Madison St, 324-8000, 8 pm, $12 adv., 21+.

WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 6

LIBRARY SCIENCE

Seattle's Library Science make slightly damp, slightly dark dub with just enough borrowed tropical warmth for these record-setting rainy days. Their secret weapons are the melodica and the space echo, two classic dub instruments. With Crown Aruba and Naomi Hall. High Dive, 513 N 36th St, 632-0212, 9 pm, $5, 21+.

DAN THE AUTOMATOR

Dan the Automator appears in support of his latest release, the video-game soundtrack NBA 2K7. The Automator is truly a top-notch hired gun, whether working with fake rock bands (Gorillaz), fake models (Handsome Boy Modeling School), fake emo rockers turned new wavers (Head Automatica), or fake NBA ballers (2K7). The one thing that's always real is Dan's skill as a producer, especially his ear for odd source material. This show boasts a live band and plenty of guest MCs to breathe life into the Automator's big-budget productions. With Chali 2na. Neumo's, 925 E Pike St, 709-9467, 8 pm, $15 adv., all ages.

 

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