By Oscar Medina
Prefuse 73 just can't seem to please anyone these days. Remeber back in 2001 when Scott Herren dropped Vocal Studies and Uprock Narratives? Soon to be followed by the now classic One Word Extinguisher? Ink gushed for this wonderkid from Atlanta with an MPC 2000. Here was a guy who singlehandedly put experimental hip hop on the map with just two records; his schizophrenic mix of skitterish, stutter-step drum editing, samples from obscure psych and found sounds, not to mention the drum programming skills of a mad scientist appealed to indie rockers, hip hop headz, noise avatarz, and yes, the critics. A few years passed, a few albums were made that criticized Prefuse for either moving too far away from his roots or working with too many guests as evinced by the problematic release "em>Surrounded by Silence, and just like that the smug naysayers seemed to have been right.
Well, it's 2007 and Prefuse 73 is touring on the heels of his new release Preparations, and prepared is what you need to be because the man showed us Saturday night that he is in top form.
Comrade DJ Nobody's Blank Blue project opened of beats, shoegazy atmospherics and introspective guitar work. Elvin aka Nobody worked the synthesizers, vintage gear, guitar and drum programming while singer Nikki Randa crooned like a lost extra from a Mazzy Star rehearsal. Nobody kept his face shielded from the audience a la Jim Morrison, while the singer stationed herself like an English royal guard, with the drummer providing most of the spectacle. The music was excellent and set the mood for the rest of the night, but the performance — mehh.
Well, I would've taken great music/lackluster performance any day of the week over what the next group School of Seven Bells subjected me to. A group that consisted of synthesizers, guitar/singer, and two female vocalists, their set was by far the worst I've seen in a long time. A sound that equal was parts, electro, rock, and hippie jam band noise nonsense, the whole set was a walking clique, with bad maraca playing to some laughable rock posturing on the part of the singer. The predictability of their songs was by far their most defining trait, every song started off with a preset drum loop, added noise by the guy on synthesizer that didn't add texture to the song, it just added, well, more noise, and then two female singers with zero harmonizing skills. These songs may have worked in Britain in the late '90's, but in 2007 they just sounded like a clusterfuck sub par version of Primal Scream, Massive Attack and Portishead, without even licking the bootstraps of any of these bands.
By the time their set ended Slim's was completely packed to the gills with people. Let's face it, an avant experimental hip hop artist like Prefuse 73 doesn't exactly get the girls to come out in droves and last night was no different as the crowd consisted mainly of dudes with beards, hip hop nerdz in American Apparel hoodies, suave record collectors in Fedora's, and even a few older cougars who were chatting it up with the bartenders. When Prefuse got on stage he wanted you to know it as he began with a noise prelude that threatened to bust out the audience's eardrums. From there on out, Prefuse 73 clad in a black Members Only jacket, snakeskin shoes, and Run DMC frames rocked the night with a best of medley that liberally played tracks from his deep discography. There was the wonderkid from Atlanta. The. MPC 2000. The arsenal of synthesizers, plus a drummer, and an extra member to help out with the beats. The crowd nodded back and forth in the blend of ADD editing and avant noise experimentation.
Watching electronic musicians is usually a snoozefest but Prefuse has always been an exception to this rule. Watching him work the MPC, guitar, electronic gadgets and live drum programming is like watching Bobby Fischer playing speed chess.The man programs beats at a moments notice, adds textures and layers spontaneously, fucks with echo and delay, flanges voices and guitar while going back to the MPC to add more breaks, makes signals to the drummer who adds a solid foundation to what an unversed listener would call a total mess. Needless to say the performance was a whirlwind and nothing short of awe inspiring. Towards the end of the set the visibly intoxicated crowd bobbed and weaved, clamoring for more when Prefuse played the classic "Busy Signal", a track that is glitch funk at it's best, and has been a crowd favorite ever since it's release on Extinguisher. The encore consisted of a loose jam session that gracefully came to a close, and as everyone filed out it was obvious that Scott Herren aka Prefuse 73 is far from over.
Personal Bias: I am a trip hop, IDM casualty
Random Detail : Dude in front of me looked like he got his whole get up at TJ Maxx and by far had the best time of anyone in attendance
Better than : School of Seven Bells