Prefuse 73 | Security Screenings (Warp)

Security Screenings is earmarked as a placeholder before a full stylistic leap. Whether this is to frustrate people like me by sending up a non-album album, or to use us all as an informal feedback forum to test out his new direction on his audience, Screenings provides insight on an artist caught in the middle of a thought.

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In the interest of full journalistic integrity, I’ll go ahead and relay Prefuse 73 mastermind Guillermo Scott Herren’s heartfelt message to the men and women waving magnetic wands over travelers in airport terminals across America: “[Security Screenings] is a collection of songs based on my love for being handled with an immense amount of respect and care by airport security…” Fortunately, Screenings’ laptop tape splices aren’t as tender with their subjects as Herren’s airport handlers apparently are. The industrial IDM comes as a welcome revisitation to his earlier contours.

With tracks ranging from ephemeral, 30-second impression pieces to fully formed songs, Prefuse 73’s most commonly lobbed criticism finally strikes some truth on Screenings: the sections at times fall together like interchangeable ideas. The queasy, granular synthesizers on “Weight Watching” reappear on “Mud in Your Mouth” and “Another One Long Gone,” bubbling out of the chopped vocal pads and grinding drum stabs. It’s not that the songs all sound the same, they just pivot so abruptly that any single section could be its own song as easily as not.

There are a few leftover guest spots from last year’s underwhelming Surrounded by Silence, ranging from Kieran Hebden of Four Tet fame to Babatunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio, but the album largely lives up to its billing as a return to Prefuse’s trademark glitch-hop. Where he seemed to lose his voice on that album by absorbing all of his guests, here he is best battling them. In particular, the grimy synth duel with Hebden on “Creating Cyclical Headaches” breaks the expectations of both artists by remaining themselves, eventually landing somewhere between Four Tet’s Everything Ecstatic and Prefuse’s Reads the Books EP.

Security Screenings is earmarked as a placeholder before a full stylistic leap. Whether this is to frustrate people like me by sending up a non-album album, or to use us all as an informal feedback forum to test out his new direction on his audience, Screenings provides insight on an artist caught in the middle of a thought. It is not Herren at his best, but his unfinished thoughts remain better than most of his contemporaries’ fully composed creations.

 

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