February 7th marks the release of Prefuse 73's Security Screenings, the artist's fifth full length since 2001 and third overall release in less than 12 months (including March 2005's Surrounded by Silence and last summer's Reads the Books E.P.). It seems as though the Prefuse discography is increasing in size just as rapidly as the number of pseudonyms coming from its creator Scott Herren.
It is natural to be skeptical of artists who are so prolific. But there is a difference with being critical and being a hater. Many haters of Surrounded by Silence cited 'too many guest spots' as a reason for why they didn't like the album - a weak argument that Herren and a friend mock during a comical skit on Security Screenings. Truth be told, many have stopped singing the producer/beat-maker extraordinaire so much praise because they aren't amazed by his characteristic style anymore.
Herren has stuck to a similar formula of cut-and-paste, glitchy hip-hop from day one with his Prefuse 73 moniker and Security Screenings is no different. To those who are unfamiliar, the music is characteristic in that it sometimes sounds as if the DJ was trying to tune into a radio station and then put it with a nice hip-hop beat over the top. In the oft-amazing mix are often comical vocal utterings ("Fuck You!" from "Suite for the Ways Things Change" was always my favorite), '70s era jazz piano/horn licks, and some really fresh breakbeats.
Agreed, no one has ever made music quite the way Herren does but it seems as if he clings to the successful formula maybe too closely with Security Screenings. The formula is laid bare during songs like "With Dirt and Two Texts - Later Version with Love" when a bouncy breakbeat and hot cut-up jazz piano/sax combo hang exceptional for several bars, then the composition moves to a hyper, punchy synth sample, and finally gives way to a loopy, filler piano arpeggiation. Sometimes Prefuse transitions only to get to the next part of the composition without really evaluating what it is that's being produced. For someone who is releasing a lot of material - Herren also has been making music under monikers Piano Overlord, Ahmad Szabo, Delarosa & Asora, Savath & Savalas, and probably more - there should be more than meets the eye, a creative direction always left untold.
I think Scott Herren is one of the more talented artists of the day. Tracks like "Awakening to A..." and "With Dirt and Two Texts - Afternoon Version" show that Prefuse material is still as tasty as it ever was. But also tracks like the experimental dronings of "Creating Cyclical Headaches" (with Kieran Hebden of Four Tet) and "We Leave You in a Cloud of Thick Smoke and Sleep Outro" (with Tunde of TV on the Radio) feel like filler of audio space, wasteful when the other side, the hand-wave inducing beat side, is right there waiting to pounce.