The Boom Bip Gets Ambient
CD EPs are the bane of my existence. Their appeal is overwhelming, the chance to own your favorite band covering your favorite Beatles song, to hear live versions of your favorite album tracks, to own those sumptuous nuggets known as b-sides or to hear those precious album tracks months before everyone else—it’s intoxicating. So you plop down the ten bucks run home and revel in what a thorough and dedicated fan you are. Unfortunately, there are only three songs and typically one is off the album, but at least there’s that one morsel of audio delight that ends up on every mixtape you make for a month after. Of course, a year or two later the band releases a compilation of all of their b-sides, which, at a few dollars more than your average EP, is a much better buy and you end up regretting that week you dented your record budget for one song that you could have copied off someone else.
There are a few notable exceptions, Belle and Sebastian who, believe it or not, release actual singles complete with two tracks of equal worth that will not appear on any proper release. There are also the CD EP’s put out by Warp Records, which like the rest of their catalog, tend to all be brilliant affairs. Prefuse 73, now joins the ranks of label mates Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada whose EP’s are just as sought after as their full players. The ‘92 vs ‘02 Collection is four songs of summertime head nodding bliss whose only drawback is its brevity.
Prefuse 73 is the latest incarnation of Scott Herren, the Atlanta based DJ/producer, also known for his work as Savath and Savalas as well as Delarosa and Asora. Originally embraced by the techno crowds for his sparse ambient beats, Herren returned to his hip-hop roots with Prefuse 73’s full length debut Vocal Studies and Uprock Narratives (also on Warp). Vocal Studies and Uprock Narratives was a masterful collage of break beats, jazz, ambient, soul and funk samples all marvelously manipulated by Herren whose flare for juggling, scratching and mixing would make Roc Raida blush. Prefuse 73 displayed a remarkable vision for combining the human, soulful elements of hip-hop with the lush, haunting, cold machine like sounds of the techno community. His latest, the ‘92 vs ‘02 Collection, is designed to satiate his fans as they wait for his next full player.
“Desks. Pencils. Bottles” gets things started with an old school break reminiscent of Grand Master Flash complete with hand claps and beat boxing that brings to mind the Fat Boys. Herren then brings in the warm synthesizers which provide the backbone for the track. At the one minute mark Herren speeds everything up, deftly changing the experience without changing the medium he’s working with. “Desks. Pencils. Bottles” conjures up images of urban summer times, kids playing jump rope, hop scotch or stickball in front of a brownstone before going to suck down Italian ices at the corner store and maybe the most thoroughly hip-hop track he’s ever done. “When Irony Wears Thin” begins with the menacing sample “Who the fuck you calling soft / Who the fuck you get your sound from?” However just as you begin to prepare for a hardcore track, Herren flips the switch and your hit with random blips and beats more often found on the wax of label mates Autechre. Despite some ‘70s funk thrown in the song keeps getting more out there ending with a bit that can only be described as R2D2 on acid. The third track “It Never Entered” is really an extension of the previous track, augmenting things with the sounds of fingers snapping.
The last track “Love You Bring” is the cut that makes buying this EP essential. Sounding like what it would be like to live in a champagne bottle, female vocals are spliced with bubbling synthesizers and a warm beat throbbing beat that propels a track you wish he would have extended for another hour. Despite its hip-hop foundation it’s the kind of song you can see the DJ playing at the end of a long night of clubbing as the sun rises.
The ‘92 vs ‘02 Collection is Prefuse 73 at his best sewing together hip-hop and ambient techno while creating a sound positively his own. Unfortunately the EP is only 20 minutes long which will only whet the appetites of fans as they are forced to ride out the wait till his next album.