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Prefuse 73 (aka Scott Herren) is a one-man beat Cuisinart whose sonic spray bridges hip hop and electronica

Wednesday, May 14 2003
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There's a strange design flaw in one of Noe Valley's neighborhood coffee shops: The builders installed the cafe's overhead fan directly below one of the ceiling-mounted speakers, so that if you happen to be standing directly beneath the spot where the blades mangle the speaker's output, the shop's cool jazz froths like Frappuccino into a weird, spluttering connect-the-dots of disjointed notes and syllables. While the ensuing sonic spray must be disconcerting for hapless customers, admirers of Prefuse 73 (aka Scott Herren, under a name designed to reflect his fondness for pre-1973 jazz fusion) would doubtless be thrilled to hear the Atlanta producer's hallmark style sneak into mass consumption, no matter how inadvertently.

Herren is a one-man beat Cuisinart, slicing, dicing, and puréeing samples into a chunky, fizzy mix of syncopated rhythms and stuttering vocals. He's as much a maestro of the sampler as DJ Shadow. But where Shadow melds long instrumental phrases into dense, top-heavy assemblages, Prefuse 73 chops his samples into byte-size morsels, seemingly as attracted to the blank spaces between breaks as to the beats themselves.

Incorporating snippets of Erykah Badu songs, guest raps from the likes of Mr. Lif, and the melancholic synthesizers of Boards of Canada, Herren has gone a long way toward bridging the worlds of hip hop and electronica. What the two genres share, of course, is that they're both performance-challenged, depending heavily on prerecorded music. But Herren's button-pushing appearance this week with up-and-coming DJ RJD2 and solo electronic producer A Grape Dope (Tortoise drummer Johnny Herndon) attempts to find a way out of the laptop cul-de-sac. Herndon backs up the notebook-toting Herren on drums and sampler, allowing the Prefuse 73 tunes to stretch out into a more improvisatory form that's live and Memorex all at once.

About The Author

Philip Sherburne

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