Surrounded By Silence
Media, in most of its forms, has become more pleasing to our eyes than our intellect. From slick page layout to quick and colorful images on the TV screen, we’ve evolved (devolved?) into a superhighway society of bite-sized, repetitive doses of information. Scott Heron, Atlanta-born beat boy AKA Prefuse 73, seems to know this all too well. His glitch-filled instrumentals could be the soundtrack to our collective A.D.D., but the trick here is that when it comes to music, a record full of distractions and fragments actually challenges the listener, instead of serving as the standard radio-pop shortcut to thinking.
To say the least, the selection of guest spots is impressive: Aesop Rock, an odd pairing of El-P and Ghostface Killa (“Hideyaface”), Masta Killa, GZA, the Books, Broadcast, Kazu (Blonde Redhead), Tyondai Braxton. Considering how diverse these artists are, it’s equally impressive that Heron achieves a fitting instrumental for each one. As for the instrumentals themselves, they are a unique, sonic patchwork: the sampling draws from the sounds of rare instruments (‘It’s Crowded’), strange vocal snippets (‘Sabbatical with Options’) and various noises of technology (best done on ‘Expressing Views is Obviously Illegal’). But despite the range in sounds, this record consistently stays rooted in the boom-bap drum patterns of BK hip-hop, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a crossover success with electronica fans.
Sometimes Prefuse’s distinct intricacy can result in an overload of the filterbank, too cluttered a mash-up, rendering the listen frustrating rather than playfully demanding. As if the information superhighway runs into gridlock at rush hour. But more often than not this record is a lush and layered experience that bodes an appropriate progression for Heron. This record is one for the headphones, as there are many subtleties to discover with each listen. And those guest spots are sure to reach new audiences of indie rockers and backpackers alike.