“The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
— Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
It is not easy staying on the cutting edge. When you are credited with popularizing a genre, audiences are bound to divide over every new release. Some expect the music to be as distinctly unique as the first time they heard it, and will complain if future works are not as equally groundbreaking. Others are quick to play the sell-out card and whinge whenever said artist makes an album that doesn’t sound exactly the same as the early stuff. It’s a sticky wicket.
As such, it was all but guaranteed from the announcement of the release date that the fifth full-length record from Prefuse 73 would receive mixed reviews. For what it’s worth, I think Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian is Guillermo Scott Heron’s best work under this name since his seminal One Word Extinguisher (the record that put glitch-hop on the map in permanent marker), but it’s a whole different kettle of fish. Ampexian is a true album, meant to be played start to finish in one uninterrupted session for maximum enjoyment.
There are 29 tracks in this experience, and only eight of them stretch over the two-minute mark. The range of styles presented is countless, and no single slice outstays its welcome. There are moments of classic glitch-hop, straight up hip-hop, sci-fi trip-hop, raunchy machine funk, and all manner of hyphenated downtempo electronic beat. Every track flows flawlessly into the next. It sounds like one continuous track, and I’m sure that was Prefuse’s plan. Conversely, 2007’s Preparations, though aurally similar in many respects, suffers slightly from a few padded out ideas that grind down the flow of the overall piece.
Some moments on Ampexian do stick out more than others. “Four Reels Collide” features little in the way of bass, instead focusing on a tripping moan that sweeps from side to side, along with more cowbell and a simple bass and acoustic guitar melody. With its Latin guitar, easy going beat, daydreaming vocal, and echoing mouth harp, “Regalo” sounds more like a track for Savath + Savalas (another of Guillermo’s alter egos). Though it only lasts a minute and fifteen seconds, “Punish” is my favorite cut, with a stuttering string sample and an absurdly compressed beat. It’s like someone ran over a copy of Ghislain Poirier’s “Refuse To Lose” (from Breakupdown).
They tell you not to judge a book by its cover, but Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian truly suits its magnificent artwork. In my eyes, the cover art makes it a kind of glitch concept album. Every time I hear this album, I feel like a lone space explorer in a low budget ’70s film discovering faraway, exotic planets never before seen by human eyes. It’s a trip, man. Buy the ticket; take the ride.
To be honest, on the whole, this album does not stick with me. After I’m finished listening to it, I forget practically everything about it. In that regard, it is definitely weaker than his first two records. The differences between this record and Preparations are mostly superficial. However, the retro-futuristic image on the cover of Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian (probably the best art he’s ever had) and the idea of a true journey does linger on long after I’ve forgotten the nuts and bolts of every individual track. For the complete listening experience, I will return to this record more often than his last two full-lengths, but I think he still has some room to grow and avenues to explore.