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Friday, November 24, 2017 
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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
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+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
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+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
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+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
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+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
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+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
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+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
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Prefuse 73
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Surrounded By Silence
Warp
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Cats've called Scott Herren the dude digging hip-hop's grave, his discography like so much soil, his rap game like the spade. Surrounded by Silence is his attempt to knock the shovel, to stop the burial, by aping other playas/players in the game, authoring, with so much self-consciousness, this disc as his collaboration record. The gear is glitzed with a guest-spot rundown as blaringly lengthy (19 names!) and cross-promotional as any "urban" disc; he even goes so far to run against former form — almost scribbling over his signature — by taking his guest gangstas (Ghostface, Masta Killa, GZA) and backpackers (Aesop Rock, Beans, El-P) and leaving their flows almost wholly whole.

See, after starting out his on-the-record life making tasteful folktronic splatterings under the ampersanded nomenclatures Delarosa & Asora and Savath & Savalas, Herren made his name as Prefuse 73, and did so by, essentially (as in: at essence), defiling the hip-hop tenet of lyricism. In his world of microtone, whereby everything is rendered bits and bytes, voices are but soundbites; and, so, flows are halted, rhymes are salted, and sentences become collections of unconnected syllables, Herren seeking to make a symphony out of vocalists swallowing their own tongues, with the patter and patois of MCs but phonetic fragments to be sliced and spliced into stuttering rhythms, words and meaning and, for certain, storytelling trolleyed down into some redundant ditch, as he cooks the hip-hopstrumentalism without the boring head-nod dreariness of beat-loop dudes.

Herren thought it a continuation of hip-hop culture, as he knew it, the idea being to seek out tiny fragments of sound and to expand them into something larger; but, really, his breaking down of sound was so un-analog that the boys in baseball caps — the kind fingering milk-crates full of molded vinyl cast in cardboard grown moldy, searching fervently for tiny pieces of recorded ephemera that they can pull from the ashes of time and blow on with fellatory enthusiasm, blowing 'til the ashes light up gold, a sun struck in the black of past, this tiny piece of forgotten light, once birthed as flame, fanned again now as the disc-jockeying boys in baseball caps light up their lives with snatches of sound repeated ad infinitum, the unceasing circularity of a loop striving to be as endless and unbroken as a gold ring forged by fire.

These record-shoppers looking to live life as a lock-groove, repetitive, going in circles, never heading forward, somewhat predictably called Herren heretic, thinking his treatment of vocalists vicious and pernicious, and him the man trying to kill rhyming cold. The kicker was that the converse tales on the tails side of the coin were singing the same song, just in a different key; with those who hate the façades of fantasist lyricists (and, thereby, their dodgy political leanings), also calling him the same thing, but crowning him in coronation and celebration as the man trying to kill rhyming cold.

Neither of these extremist interpretations were really singing the truth, and, so, after questions about this over four years and two albums, Surrounded by Silence seeks to speak clarifications into the ears of everyone who's ever passed judgment on the hot topic of Herren's intentions. Here, he continues to do those Prefuse things — spattered fragments of half-swallowed syllables sending glowing keytone skittering on their hummingbirds' wings; fissures of static making it sound like his stabbing beatmaking is pulling wiring through the speakers; incongruous samples (here a Hebden-inspired Karen Dalton and Linda Perhacs) wailing from beyond the pop-cultural grave like ghosts in his machine — while allowing, say, Beans to get off an off-the-cuff riff entirely unmolested. And, ever one to broaden borders, Herren stitches his hip-hop guests alongside humans for the kids who couldn't give a shit about whether something's "real hip-hop" or not, his conceptual needle-and-thread binding the sample-science monkeyshines of The Books, the treekid beatnik beat-pop of Broadcast, and the sexualized sighings of Blonde Redhead's Kazu Mikano together — all of these humans being brought out of the P73 blender, the whole served cold like a Caipirinha.


by Anthony Carew




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