While at first glance it might seem self-indulgent to construct a record label with the sole purpose of releasing one’s own work with a handful of collaborators, it’s not a fair gauge of Guillermo Scott Herren’s venture with his new label, Yellow Year. Herren’s forays as Prefuse 73 into more experimental streams of “glitch-hop” from the late 90s and onwards left a mark upon the more left-leaning hip-hop community, among them Steven Ellison/Flying Lotus and a younger Brainfeeder affiliate of Ellison’s, Mtendere Mandowa a.k.a. Teebs. Herren and Teebs have teamed up as the first incarnation of a series of collaborative EP releases called Sons of the Morning, and it’s this effort (among many more to come) that Herren is “indulging” himself in on Yellow Year.
In terms of collaborative pairings, Prefuse 73 and Teebs are of peculiar interest. Despite a sizable difference in terms of experience and back catalog, the two complement each other relatively well, functioning like a singer and a horn player in a jazz combo, an abstract and synergetic take on the idea of counterpoint. What is perhaps most striking about Teebs’ beat-based music is the sincerity of his relaxed and minimal compositions; Herren himself referred to Teebs as the “Erik Satie of the SP-303,” drawing a parallel between the two, despite the frequent labeling of Satie as “wallpaper music.” Meanwhile, Prefuse’s pastiche and re-constructive skill on albums like 2003’s One Word Extinguisher demonstrated an ability to deliver an enormous array of colors and samples while not distancing the listener with excessive interplay, much like Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica (the latter artist in fact suggesting the name “Yellow Year” to Herren around the time of the conception of Sons of the Morning). Paired together, Prefuse 73 and Teebs have the capacity to go anywhere, which begs the question: What music have they crafted together?
Sons of the Morning: Speak Soon Vol. 1 is, according to Herren, “about environments, the sun, and memory.” A vague and expansive menagerie of possibilities could potentially flow from this numb conceptual strain, but perhaps this is exactly what the two artists were after. The EP is, for all intents and purposes, vague and expansive, but this perception isn’t accrued in spite, as Prefuse and Teebs’ accumulation of musical sentiments exploring environments, the sun and memory are dynamic and musically dense, ever-morphing behemoths strung together with generous amounts of hiss and crackle. Teebs’ normal collation of harps, flutes, and assorted percussion sounds is palpable among Prefuse’s disintegration of warped vocal and percussive shapes, and from the brief introduction on the opening track, the two musicians craft a collection of instrumental sketches that illustrate breezy, fleeting moments of lucidity among chaotic descents into reverb-filled chasms of piano (“The Way That Wind Moves Pt1”) or circling deliriums of pseudo-sambas (“The Way That Wind Moves Pt2”).
This well-executed collaborative effort to present such environments and memories is an undeniably fascinating endeavor into aesthetic exploration of concepts that are, to many, indescribable objects that necessitate ideas beyond language to express them. Perhaps the rough, sketch-like nature of the EP could cause one to consider it alongside other more cohesive explorations of the “beats” and glitch form with a certain amount of skepticism, but it’s a small qualm to bear against this collection of bizarre and beautiful collages.