When Atlanta-based electronic spirit warrior Guillermo Scott Herren, a.k.a. Prefuse 73, dropped One Word Extinguisher in 2003, it lit a fire under the ass of weak DJs and second-wave IDM trendriders. There was nothing like it. That, coupled with career-defining work from Four Tet, Caribou, Broadcast, Boards of Canada, and The Books released in the same 18-month window, Prefuse 73 helped spearhead a movement of truly envelope-pushing music that annexed disparate genres under an experimental electronic umbrella. Certainly music felt a little more daring then than now. Since that time, Herren has involved himself in a variety of side projects, such as the excellent Savath & Savalas and Risil. As Prefuse 73, however, his post-Extinguisher work has been met with varying levels of praise. Surrounded By Silence, for example, was accused of both being not as hip-hop oriented as earlier work, or way too hip-hop. You can’t please everyone, and The Only She Chapters, his latest full length, may be Herren’s most divisive yet work.
The Only She Chapters comes off as a loose concept record. All 18 tracks are titled “The Only…” and exclusively features vocal contributions from female artists, including Zola Jesus, Nobody collaborator Niki Randa (if you don’t already know check out Blank Blue), My Brightest Diamond, and others. Of course, the most significant contribution comes from Broadcast’s Trish Keenan. As far as we know, this could be one of her last recordings. If that’s the case, it’s a wonderful epilogue, as “The Only Trial of 9,000 Suns” is one of the most soaring, haunting songs likely to come out this year.
Also significant, Herren eschews all traces of the beat-centric, vaguely hip-hop approach he established throughout most of his career. The Only She Chapters is a wholly ambient and adventurous affair. Some of Prefuse’s trademark, glitch-saturated rhythm appear (sporadically at best). Herren replaced his skewed beats and loops with dissonant and disjointed song structures, grainy tape samples, sonar calls, reverse vocal snippets, dense sonic space, and the occasional mellotron. Whether you’re surprised by this or not depends on how closely you follow all of Herren’s work – he’s hinted at this direction for a while. The trenchant repetition and eastern mysticism long inherent in Savath & Savalas is fully realized within Prefuse in the seven-minute hypnotic meditation “The Only Repeat” and the cheekily-titled “The Only Thief to Steal Tonality.” The blissed out amalgamation of acoustic instrumentation and harsh power electronics on “The Only Hand to Hold” offers a fine-tuning of the sonic explorations Herren and The Books laid to tape on the Reads the Books EP. Shockingly, “The Only Chamber Resolve” does not feature a Trish Keenan credit, though I’d put money that she had some sort of influence. Its hauntological vibe is completely congruent with Haha Sound‘s segues or their work with Ghost Box luminary The Focus Group, adding another unsettling dimension to this daring full-length.
It would be disingenuous to not suggest The Only She Chapters is a challenging listen, especially for fans of One Word Extinguisher and Prefuse 73’s traditional glitch-hop sound. However, if you approach the listening experience understanding this is Herren at his most fluid, formless, and ethereal, The Only She Chapters will resonate. Regardless of how you feel about the record, a crafty shift in direction is always laudable. Personally, I dug it, and would recommend it to anyone to reads our shit regularly.
The Only She Chapters is available now from the mighty Warp. And chatter on the Twitter machine suggests that Herren has some new collaborative work with The Flaming Lips that might be worth looking out for.