Sat May 17
At varying points on Prefuse 73's new record, One Word Extinguisher (Warp), the cassette containing his answering machine messages is allowed to roll. Barring a couple tracks with guest rappers--Mr. Lif, Diverse--these are the only parts where breathy voices aren't cut-up and halved into a mere hint of a person, or weaved into the bulbous fabric of One Word Extinguisher's glitchy hiphop instrumentals. Prefuse 73 is in the habit of turning vocals into beats, but the voices on the answering machine are ephemeral, like ghosts or mementos. As if the haunts of actual people are tucked away beneath Prefuse's divergent veneer of flashing bass, subdued melodies, and graceful rhythms looming large.
Prefuse 73 is a moniker of multipurpose beat genius Scott Herren, and actually, One Word Extinguisher barely touches on the rich mine of vocal splices that graced his last album, Vocal Studies and Uprock Narratives. Instead, this record is built on heartache--samples on "90% of My Mind is With You" lament, "I wish we never broke up, girl" and "It's such a lonely feelin'"--Herren mostly lets One Word's multi-tiered beats unleash its surprisingly emotional tale. The voices are in the squelches of bass, the stumbling percussion, and the synth melodies, which alternately soar elegantly and collapse in a dainty, enervated wilt.
As far as musical emotion goes, Herren had a good teacher; the first music he bought was the seven-inch of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature." "That's still my shit; that's still one of my favorite songs by Michael Jackson. I don't know, man, there's something about that song that just does it for me," says Herren. But does he like the new stuff? "Yeah, man! When he did that song 'Butterflies,' I thought that shit was really nice, you know?"
Herren makes his home in Barcelona, Spain, but returned to his hometown of Atlanta to record One Word Extinguisher. He spent that time in isolation, which partly explains the album's contemplative nature. "I'd just gone through a long breakup with my girlfriend that never seemed to end, and that type of vibe--the bum-out vibe--was going on," Herren explains. The corresponding title of the album, One Word Extinguisher, refers to "a powerful word, a singular word; a word that can stop a conversation. Like, 'fuck,' 'love,' 'good-bye,' things like that: powerful words. It serves as a good title. And there are my own personal, silent comments for myself that I make throughout the record."
Like the answering machine messages. On "Styles that Fade Away with a Collonade Reprise," the voices of Herren's friends and callers tracked over a subdued Rhodes piano melody is already deeply personal. But when a woman's voice pleads, "It really sucks when you don't answer any of my calls," then says "Bye" in the fond, singsong way a lover might, it sounds both sweet and depressing by association. Herren explains, "In a way, when I hear it, it's kind of sad; it has this sad tone to it. But maybe it's just cause some friends on [that track] moved away and I don't get to see too much of them. There they are, just buggin' out on my answering machine, and it's the end of the record, and, you know! I'm corny as fuck!"