Surrounded by Silence

Artist: Prefuse 73Title: Surrounded by SilenceRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Max Herman

Prefuse 73’s latest is walkman-ready music, perfect for the open-minded Hip-hopper. Anyone who can sit back, relax and appreciate multi-layered production often coupled with an uncommon assortment of talented guest artists is likely to find refuge here. On Surrounded By Silence (Warp) Prefuse allows airtime for both the lyrical onslaught of MCs like Ghostface or Aesop Rock and the soothing humming of vocalists like Claudia Deheza. And he creates perfectly fitting instrumentals for each one—a feat many Hip-hop beat makers have yet to accomplish.

The production of Prefuse is intriguing in that while he utilizes fairly traditional boom-bap drum patterns--with a few more beat changes than your average producer--he really throws a curveball at the listener with his sampling. Drawing from the sounds of rare instruments, oddball vocal snippets and various noises of technology, he offers a truly distinct sonic patchwork. There are certain moments, however, like on “Ty Versus Detchibe,” when Prefuse’s intricacy can result in a cluttered overload of sounds. More often, though, his distinct styling makes for enjoyable listening—especially when an able guest is along for the ride.

On the mid-tempo lead single, “Hideyaface,” a seemingly odd paring of Definitive Jux head honcho El-P and the Wu Tang’s Ghostface manages to work wonders. While these two may share relatively different subject matter, Prefuse knew exactly what he was doing in putting two of his favorite MCs on the same cut. Over the vibrant drum kicks and barrage of samples, this is a wild style lyrical beat down at its best. Prefuse obviously has an affinity for the Wu as he also enlisted Masta Killa and GZA to appear on the standout cut “Just The Thought.” As Masta Killa directly raps, “It don’t take long to write a song when the beat is strong,” you can’t help but nod your head in accordance.

The tracks without rhyming usually fare just as well. On “It’s Crowded,” blips, bleeps and other sounds of technology accompany this tranquil number, which sees vocalist Claudia Deheza enter towards the ending, offering not much more than faint hums when she does. But these lush hums are so stirring they’ll move you to hit repeat over and over again. While not quite as haunting, Deheza’s other appearance with her sister Alejandra on “Pastel Assassins” is another standout, full of reverberating vocals between the two.

On the rare occasion when Prefuse opts to go it alone, he is certainly able to speak superbly with only his hands. And when he gives his instrumentals titles like “Expressing Views is Obviously Illegal,” they beg for interpretation.

Whether collaborating with handpicked MCs and singers or getting down behind the boards by himself, Prefuse continually presents an intriguing junction of sounds—perfect for kicking back and absorbing in your headphones.