Prefuse 73: Preparations

Is Preparations a return to form for Prefuse 73? The least charitable view would contend that anything after 2006's dismal Security Screenings would be so. Certainly the EP, while not entirely an act of seppuku, did reveal that not everything Guillermo Scott Herren touches turns to gold. But let's, for the sake of argument, treat the EP as a momentary misstep and instead ask whether Preparations is a credible full-length successor to 2005's Surrounded By Silence and 2002's classic One Word Extinguisher. Yes, it is, though, interestingly, the new release is shorter, a more digestible forty-six minutes to be exact (note, however, that the iTunes version of Preparations is the single disc release; the CD version includes a bonus orchestral album titled Ensembles that's composed and played by Herren using mostly cello, flute, piano, bass, and clarinet and is designed to be a ‘shadow' complement to Preparations), and is closer in spirit to One Word Extinguisher than the MCs-based Surrounded By Silence.

Like past Prefuse albums, Preparations occasionally plays like a transcription of Herren's hyper-stimulated mind, specifically in the collages and interludes that are sometimes so chaotic they threaten to implode (or explode in the case of “Smoking Red,” the volcanic chopped throwdown powered by Battles' drummer John Stanier); more satisfying by comparison are the relatively conventionally structured, song-styled pieces where dense clusters of strings, swirling flutes, chanting voices, and electronics flow over tight hip-hop beats. Certainly one of the best moments is “Class of 73 Bells,” a collaboration with School of Seven Bells (whose members include James Elliott aka Ateleia, twin sisters Claudia and Alejandra Dehaza, and ex-Secret Machines member Benjamin Curtis) where the NY outfit reins in Herren's propensity for excess. There are characteristic strokes of Prefuse genius, such as the quivering torch ballad sample that ends “I Knew You Were Gonna Go,” and Herren proves himself, once again, a master of psychedelic boom-bap on sparkling cuts like “Beaten Thursday” and “Girlfriend Boyfriend,” where sighing voices and summery acoustic guitars glide over a crisp base.

Preparations represents a more than satisfying recovery, then, from Security Screenings, though it bears mentioning that, while there are ideas aplenty, not many of them sound new, with most having surfaced in past Prefuse material. Even so, for now, at least, one can take pleasure in the fact that Herren has righted his Prefuse ship.

December 2007