Thursday, August 25, 2005
PREFUSE 73 | Reads the Books | Warp Records
With full-length albums for Prefuse 73 and The Books released earlier this year, what better time to bring together these heroes of the avant-garde? Yet at a mere 22 minutes, this short gem might not be the glorious combination project we envisioned. It’s only an EP, and a one-sided one at that—the only input the Books had in this disc was clearing the use of their music for sampling.
So Scott Herren (aka Prefuse 73) gets all the credit for the idea, and like most things involved with our favorite Barcelonian DJ, it’s still pretty cool, even for the minute amount of new material. Minus the 10-second “Pagina Uno. Introduccíon,” we’re left with “Pagina Dos,” reprised from Surrounded by Silence, and the formless Paginas “Cuatro” and “Siete.” “Pagina Cinco” comes off as perhaps the most conventional, with five minutes of DJ basics—looping samples and a beat. One final point of note is the short cameo of Claudia Maria Denheza on the final track, whose trip-hop soprano vocals are sure to continue appearing in future Prefuse projects. Enjoy the short ride while it lasts. (BS)
I SELF DEVINE | Self Destruction |Rhymesayers
As the frontman of the acclaimed ‘90s underground Micranots crew, I Self Devine is probably banking on his cult drawing to power his solo debut, Self Destruction. His rhymes and storytelling are as sharp as ever, giving an in-depth exploration of his past and circumstances, learned lessons, and knowledge of self. From the rousing self-empowerment intro “I Am” to “Live in the Moment” reflecting on darker days, I Self keeps the subject matter serious and always carefully considered.
The accompanying beats are likewise highly competent, a near flawless hip-hop canvas provided by the usual Rhymesayers beat team: Jake One, Vitamin D, Ant, and Bean One. True to form, D throws us a couple backpack-variety quirky-sample loops (“Live in the Moment,” “Actions”), while Jake knocks in some bare-boned, bass-heavy bangers (“This Is It,” “Ice Cold”) and Bean comes through with a basic “Love Song.” Ant shines particularly brightly on his contributions, helping form a diverse palate of tracks with the soul-jam chorus hook of “All I Know,” the touching trumpet swells of “Feel My Pain” and the neo-dancehall riddim of “Can’t Do Nothing Wrong.” With such strong backing, I Self finds his solo feet easily enough; the whole album comes off as an accomplished hip-hop exercise—but in the end, it’s hard to pin down anything really lasting. (BS)
TAJ MAHAL | The Essential Taj Mahal | Legacy Recordings
Taj Mahal is a roots music jack-of-all trades—and more a master of some than others. This musician—the former Henry St. Clair Fredericks—has been doing this thing he does for 40 some years, first as a member of the multi-racial Rising Sons, all the way to the light R&B, semi-jazz thing he does today.
A decent enough singer and instrumentalist, Taj’s gift is his endearingly soulful and somewhat lazy delivery of just about any American music. His arrangement of “Statesboro Blues” (featuring the late Jesse Ed Davis on slide here) became an Allman Brothers’ staple, while his takes on “Walking Blues” and his FM classic “Fishing Blues” are also groundbreaking. This, plus covers of reggae standards like “Johnny Too Bad” proves he can negotiate anything.
Thing is, he isn’t really great at any one thing. As a genre hopper, he’s more a visitor than an inhabitant. But this is a two CD set of all-around wonderful music, a smorgasbord ideal for a long drive anywhere. (JA)