Prefuse 73

Warp

“I gotta be honest, I’m really not likin’ it,” booms a pushy mock interviewer early on in Security Screenings, Prefuse 73’s not-quite follow-up to last year’s offending disc, Surrounded by Silence. “Could you have any more guest spots on there?” The track, “Illiterate Interlude,” could be a grudging apology to critics and fans who soured on Silence’s outsourced vibe. Though the fake journalist doesn’t allow Prefuse prime mover Scott Herren to defend himself, Herren’s background giggles seem to signal a good-natured acceptance—or maybe that he just doesn’t give a fuck. After all, Prefuse’s influential early full-lengths, 2001’s Vocal Studies & Uprock Narratives and 2003’s One Word Extinguisher, employed their own smatterings of guest artists. The Rolodex-twirling has slowed on this album, which features collabs only with Four Tet and TV on the Radio’s Babatunde Adebimpe, but a more significant shift on Screenings is that Herren has distanced himself even further from the hiphop of his early work, diving headlong into glitchy bleeps, bloops, and splats. Where his samples were once merely hard to recognize, they’re now completely obliterated. On Screenings, grooves rarely last longer than a minute or two, and even then they’re usually laced with startling asides. A few tracks actually bother to invite you to stick around for a while. The romantic “Matrimonioids….” offers a solid 3:45 of ambience, and “When the Grip Lets You Go”’s clanky, fuzzy beat alternates with a free-jazz warm-up, the two finally blending together and then, aptly, losing grip. The choppy upper layers of “No Origin” are held in place by steady drumwork; it’s perhaps the most obvious nod to Prefuse’s beat-driven past. And Prodigy of Mobb Deep’s sampled self-ID as a “skinny motherfucker” remains somewhat detectable under the opening scribbles and honks of “Weight Watching” before the track’s clanking chimes, dripping water, and lagging beats come together to form one of the album’s easier-to-follow melodies—that is, until the baffling Spanish-language acoustic coda. Security Screenings has its fair share of beautiful moments, however fleeting, and Herren’s ear for an off-kilter groove is still strong. Too bad you can’t quite shake the feeling that he’s giggling at us all. —Anne Marson