Album Reviews

Prefuse 73 – Surrounded By Silence

(Warp) UK release date: 21 March 2005

Prefuse 73 isn’t the kind of name that necessarily locks itself intoyour head, but if Surrounded By Silence nets the all-conquering successit deserves, it will be the name to drop at all the right parties.

The alter-ego of Scott Herren already has form of course. Hisprevious album under this name, One Word Extinguisher, was bizarrelysuperseded in quality by its subsequently released Extinguished: Outtakes EP.After deviating with this most organic of electronica with the Savath &Savalas project, Herren is back. And this time he’s brought a posse ofrappers and kooky alt-types.

Despite the all-comers guest-spots, Surrounded By Silence maintainsa narrative core. The group players are apparitional, ghostly – hardraps and folksy chiming appear as signals, communiqu�s from the ether, aholistic dialogue with the human race. Surrounded By Silence places thelistener in the driving seat of the artist – a digitalised, sensory,astral travelogue.

Like the stills in the accompanying credits booklet, the devil is inthe peripheral detail. Though Pastel Assassins is ‘sung’ by twinsClaudia and Alejandra Deheza, the atmosphere is one of sensual distraction.Kazu of Blonde Redhead conspires on We Got Our Own Way,summoning similar Sargasso spirits of atmosphere that Pram conspire toconjure.

Where Surrounded By Silence really earns its stripes is inenlivening incongruities. Pagina Dos could be Animal Collective displacedfrom summer camp to Times Square, bewildered and beatifically dazzledby the city glow. Minutes Away Without You is fairground Jazz, whileHerren and LA -mixer DJ Nobody unite the fear of Folk and Illbientinto something grand and cinematic with La Correcion Exchange beforearriving at a destination of looped Exotica.

In addition there are a festival’s worth of genre-adoptions. NowYou’re Leaving (featuring Camu) is a seamless excursion intosublime electronic black pop. Yet so offhandedly is it cut short that itgives the impression Herren could knock out such effortless tune-age in hissleep. With the assistance of Wu-Tang Clan‘s GZA and Masta Killa (nottheir real names, ladies and gents), Just The Thought presses laser-gunmadness into the service of melody, neatly counterpointed by therhymes.

Though there are synthetic and manipulated ‘real’ noises aplenty, itis the backboard of silence, of space, that dictates the play. Thoughno doubt meticulously and painstakingly pieced together, Surrounded BySilence could be the work of a particularly intrusive tape recorderenabled with artificial intelligence. Beats are insistent but, poking justbelow the surface, function as markers to this periscopic journey asopposed to its propulsion.

The odd raps, from Beans to Ghostface (yep, more nomde plumes for confused surfers) are bellows from a speakers cornerlocated somewhere in sub-space. Freshly recorded they may be but coupledwith some straightforward sampling (like Karen Dalton‘s Are YouLeaving For The Country) and miscellaneous female voices, all appearplucked from history’s audio-library.

It would be too glib to say that Herren is a curator of sounds asSurrounded By Silence has too much collaborative warmth to be saddledwith that academic handle. Even with the diversions intoAutechre-like avant-burbling (Ty versus Detchibe), Surrounded By Silence quicklyattains an inclusive patina so if it all sounds like a sprawl, fretnot. Surrounded By Silence has the personal stamp of an auteur, asingular vision pervades the whole record. Though appealing in bite-sizepieces, Surrounded By Silence works best at one sitting. What’s more, thisisn’t a record that needs to work hard to find favour. Its manydiversions are never overstated.

Despite a few f**ks here and there, it’s tempting to see SurroundedBy Silence as a work of Romanticism, with harmony and unification itsunspoken themes. This record already features one self-proclaimed Genius(Wu-Tang’s GZA). After Surrounded By Silence, he may have to get usedto sharing that particular moniker.

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Prefuse 73 – Surrounded By Silence