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Sunday, March 20, 2005

LISTENING POST

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Scott Herren


Many major American hip-hop artists profess admiration and even envy for the experimental glitch mastery of the European electronica artists who make up the roster of Warp records. If there's a missing link between the two sensibilities it's probably Atlanta native Scott Herren, who records for Warp under the name Prefuse 73.

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Herren betrays his American upbringing by drawing heavily on hip-hop, but the fact is he often relegates rappers to being just another element in his dense, knotty mixes, no more or less important than a banjo sample that he might find intriguing. Listening to his new record, "Surrounded by Silence," you register the inclusion of such inimitable MCs as Ghostface, Aesop Rock and Masta Killa without giving much thought to what it is they're saying, because Herren is more interested in the quality of their voices than he is in the content of their raps. Likewise the participation of key members of such diverse groups as The Books, The Battles and Blonde Redhead won't make fans of those groups run out and buy the record (though they should anyway), and Herren isn't using them for their name-recognition.

The reason Prefuse 73 tracks appeal to glitch-masters and hip-hoppers alike is their wide-ranging musical tastes. And whereas his last album, "One Word Extinguisher," was characterized by heavy weather melancholy that supposedly reflected a bitter romantic break-up, the new record, while not exactly sunny, is nevertheless bright with the excitement of experimentation in the service of beats you groove to rather than think about. It's something to admire, and envy.

March 25, 7 p.m., Mother Hall, Osaka (Smash West, 06-6535-5569); March 27, 6 p.m., Shibuya O-East, Tokyo (Beatink, 03-5766-6571). Tickets 5,800 yen in advance.


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