Prefuse 73: Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian

Confronted with the Roger Dean-styled cover of Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian, Prefuse 73 fans might shudder with dread in anticipation of the album's material, but they needn't worry. Though Guillermo Scott Herren has expanded the already-panoramic stylistic scope of his music into multiple areas both new and old, the album moves in the opposite direction to Yes's twenty-minute epics. If anything, Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian pushes the channel-surfing Prefuse style to its furthest extreme by jam-packing twenty-nine cuts into a forty-eight-minute running time. Flashes of Herren's customary brilliance surface but you've got to listen carefully to catch them before they're gone. The moment a track seems about to settle into something substantial, the channel abruptly changes to something else. Thirteen of the album's tracks are one minute or less, and it's only by the eighth piece (“DEC. Machine Funk All ERA's”) that one encounters something longer than two minutes. All of which can make for a frustrating listen: the moment a track seems poised to develop, it's replaced by another.

Harpsichords, electronic noise, vocal harmonies, and of course beats wrestle for attention in Herren's overloaded mix, and along the way we get ephemeral samplings of classic Prefuse hip-hop (“Hairy Faces (Stress),” “Parachute Panador”), bass-thrusting soul-funk (“Half Up Front”), and classic Prefuse bump (“Oh Is It”). The funky and relatively straightforward snap and swing of “Preparation's Kids Choir” comes closest to revisiting the One Word Extinguisher style, while the breezy Savath Y Savalas-meets-Prefuse 73 vibe of “Regalo”—wherein acoustic strums sit alongside the seeming twang of a Jew's Harp—shows Herren's not lost his talent for arresting instrumental configurations. Swimming briefly to the surface of multiple tracks, the softly cooing voice of Claudia Dehaza adds warmth wherever it appears (“Periodic Measurements of Infrequent Smiles,” “Whipcream Eyepatch”) plus there's a lovely vocal-based setting (“Simple Loop Choir”) whose stateliness Herren generally opts not to undermine with needless noise interventions. In “Four Reels Collide” we get back-beat country-funk, like Herren jamming at some backwoods inn with the locals, while “No Lights Still Rock” opts for fractured, queasy hip-hop like some mid-‘70s Miles synthesizer-and-beats experiment excavated from the vaults. At disc's end, “Formal Dedications” throws one last curve ball in presenting a four-minute hybrid of acoustic jazz and modern composition, wedding acoustic bass with steel guitar in inspired (and unexpectedly low-key) fashion.

Listening to Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian is as dizzying an experience as can be expected—though not necessarily in any unpleasant way. One's attention is definitely held and sequencing the tracks without breaks means that one hears it as a pattern-shifting tapestry rather than disconnected fragments—no matter how fragmented the separate pieces may be. It's not Herren's best Prefuse outing—that honour still goes to One Word Extinguisher or Surrounded By Silence—but give the man credit for fearlessly pushing ahead.

May 2009