cott Herren's glitch-hop masterpiece Vocal Studies and Uprock Narratives was such a wonderfully startling surprise of a record that any subsequent release would be faced with almost insurmountable difficulties. Could Herren expand on his distinct sound and retain the freshness that gave Vocal Studies the often pyrrhic "instant classic" status?
Luckily, his latest offering does just that. Having established a compelling and highly unique style with the first Prefuse 73 release, Herren delves deep into a morass of clicks, cuts, processed jazz, shimmering strings, analog diversions, and some of those awesome chopped-up vocals with a confidence bordering on audacity. Practically every track is born from tweaked samples and reaches a denouement amid a spazzy flurry of warped bleeps and frenzied instrumental glitchiness, stopping along the way for plenty of frenetic turntable breakdowns and analog synth squiggles. The result is a loose, almost jammy feel to many of the tracks, although Herren's considerable production skills is in evidence on One Word Extinguisher even more than on its predecessor. It sounds like love, like he just can't keep his hands off those sound bites, like he's got to get to the very essence of the samples and immerse himself in what he digs up. Case in point: "The Color of Tempo," where Herren pulls apart some smooth reedy sax and lets the pieces flutter to the floor, flittering into beautifully incongruous interpolations. It's like getting a hot freestyle out of a Dada poem.
One Word Extinguisher draws from a similar palette of sounds as its predecessor, so it's instantly recognizable as Prefuse. That, coupled with the record's more freeform proclivities, makes it a bit less immediate than Vocal Studies. Obviously conscious of this, Herren packs his most accessible material up front. "The End of Biters" takes the cuisinart MC stylings of Vocal Studies to a new extreme, shredding words into a blur of phonemes on top of a bombastic beat. It's a great way to announce a comeback. "Plastic" follows, a gurgly slice of bleepy click-hop that never overpowers guest rapper Diverse. And there are several new surprises. "Uprock and Invigorate" features some gorgeous deep jazz bass that could have come from Kopernik (on Herren's own Eastern Developments label), as well as squelchy 303 a la Timbaland. "Detchibe" embraces jagged stabs of noise, while the title track reveals a hint of DAT Politics’ razor edge to its horns.
But perhaps the greatest expansion in Herren's sound is the range of emotion conveyed in One Word Extinguisher. From the triumphant, almost cocky "End of Biters," to the appropriately stumbling "90% of My Mind Is With You" to the funky, slightly detached R&B of "Why I Love You"... Herren's all over the map in ways Vocal Studies didn't even attempt. Most startling is the disconcerting "Choke You," which harsh drones drive the song towards some sort of dread conclusion -- a 303 screams in protest, but the beat trudges forward, resigned to fate. Some playful MIDI attempts to overcome the depression, but its futile attempts just add to the ache.
There's a whole lot of record here, and buzzing through 23 tracks in just over an hour is exhausting. But that's the whole point. One Word Extinguisher is sonic catharsis, an outpouring of the complex thoughts and emotions about sound, music, love... Jesus, I can't possibly ask for more. Can I?
Reviewed by: Gavin Mueller
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01