Guillermo Scott Herren has always lent a certain otherworldly quality to his chopped-up, yet oddly fluid, hip-hop odysseys. As Prefuse 73, he injects organic melodies into woozy and uneasy structures. There’s often warmth and familiarity, emotions and feelings, but the odd, distorted combinations of sounds come together in a package that’s ultimately too weird for genre, but too sonically inviting not to like, or at the very least, pique one’s interest. On his latest effort, Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian, Herren plays up the otherworldly aspect of his music, issuing an album adorned with a cover seemingly pulled straight from a Yes album, depicting some kind of spaceman walking across a trippy landscape. And the title of the album itself creates a sort of alien species—Ampexian—though, truthfully, it references analog Ampex tape, to which to the album was recorded.
Perhaps due to the analog recording process, Ampexian does sound richer, more full than Herren’s last few albums, but aesthetically, it carries many of the same hallmarks that a Prefuse 73 album does. Tracks bleed into one another, fuzzy synthesizers and glitchy beats click and ease past one another. Ambient segues are interspersed between upbeat machine funk tracks. In some ways, it’s exactly what one would expect from Prefuse 73, but when it comes to Herren, the unknown and the unexpected are always part of what to expect. This is where the album is its most exciting. “Get Em High” opens with an acoustic hip-hop frolic, but drops out into space age atmospherics. “When Is a Good Time?” squeaks and howls with animal sounds, like a jam session at the zoo. “Fountains of Spring” is a twinkling, melodic highlight transmitting from some cavernous distance, sounding both beautiful and eerie in its distorted, tweaked broadcast. “Regalo” struts and stammers with odd bits of distant vocal cries, while “Oh Is It” pulses and flexes with minimal hip-hop panache, punctuated by repeated recitations of the song’s title. “Violent Bathroom Exchange” is practically noise rock in its sinister, distorted lurch, while “Nature’s Uplifting Revenge” is pure cut-and-paste joy, like Animal Collective remixed, and quite well at that.
In some ways, it’s an exercise in futility to point out the greatest tracks on Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian, because there are highlights to be found all over, but the album ultimately works best as a whole. With 29 tracks, many of them mere brief bits of sound rather than fully formed songs. But be it a tightly structured three minutes or 30 seconds of one repeated hook, nobody does this kind of psychedelic, alien hip-hop excursion better than Prefuse 73.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.