Prefuse 73 Preparations

[Warp; 2007]

Styles: orchestral pop, hip-hop
Others: Savath & Savalas, Delarosa and Asora, Piano Overlord

Guillermo Scott Herren views the world through a kaleidoscope these days; this I am certain of. His manipulations of theme, color, and shape gather and morph with an analogous refracted lyricism. By comparison, the artistic assemblages on Preparations favor subtlety, fusing his Savath & Savalas moniker to his work as Prefuse 73. While all of the requisite P73 disciplines are present throughout, he accentuates the usual intensity of his cut-and-paste narratives with a cast veil of haze. The result requires a lengthier appraisal period to acknowledge the inherent strengths within the warm sweep of fragmented, graceful orchestrations.

The Class of 73 Bells EP, released in advance of Preparations and featuring the twin sisters School of Seven Bells, is strongly indicative of the prevalent mood, and an extension of themes found on Savath & Savalas' Manana. Swirling with muted tones and gossamer-winged phrasings, it invokes the spirit of sunshine pop and fuzzy-felt folk practitioners Free Design, Barbara Moore Singers, or Orriel Smith.
The gentle daydream state of Preparations' "Girlfriend Boyfriend" continues this approach, with an intricate whirligig of percussive, wind, and string elements softened by flickers of voice caught on the wind. "Noreaster Cheer" is another, brooding with a voluminous flow of apparitional voices set against a head-nodding beat saturated in ether.

Meanwhile, "Prog Version Slowly Crushed" is an amalgamation of Autechre-style texturing colliding with a hip-hop beat, melodic swells, and cymbal rides, serving as a middle ground between earlier P73 and now. While fitting beautifully within the continuity of the album, the edge on this track is especially pronounced. The same can be said for "Let It Ring," where the stagger-paced beat is suffused by layers of voice piled mountain-high, or the funk-fused "Beaten Thursdays," where a foot is firmly placed in past and present.

Herren flexes muscle most prominently on the drum fill overload of "Smoking Red," as he throws vocal samples, electronic squiggles, and melodic currents at the percussive wunderkind John Santier. It is a highly effective centerpiece, coaxing the listener from the softness ever so slightly before slipping back into dream state. "Aborted Hugs" and "17 Seconds Interlude" are also highly agitated tracks compared to their siblings, but serve more as interludes, clocking in at less than
a minute and a half each.

A supernal set of tracks ends Preparations, movements of pure reverie that complete the album in fitting fashion. "Spaced + Dissonant" features strings and voices fluttering across subdued rhythms, while "Preparation Outro Version" hangs suspended under its own hypnosis, a veritable rotorelief of piano, electronics, and percussion. They are simple -- organic in movement and radiant with color. Preparations is a sum of meticulous explorations of moods, where Herren doesn't so much rewrite as he does edit the book in preparation for the next compositional shift.

[Initial editions will come with a second disc entitled Interregnums, a collection of emotive orchestral explorations -- scores in miniature for unrealized films -- and extensions of the pieces used for Preparations. My immediate instinct (especially on the Nadja-like "Prepared Two") is to draw comparison to Simon Fisher-Turner, who, among others, has worked similarly in the past with the fusion of orchestral work and electronic manipulations in this smaller scale. Interregnums proves to be an engaging and powerful document that does stand as its own statement. So, does this signify the beginning of a new shift in focus as I have suggested in the main review, or is this just a diversion placed in the artist's timeline? I am hopeful that it is a suggestion of a future development for Herren that, fully explored, could create yet another persona of equal strength. We'll have to wait and see.]

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