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Vocal Studies And Uprock Narratives

Prefuse 73
Vocal Studies And Uprock Narratives
(Warp Records)

Over the course of the past couple years, electronic and hip-hop music have gradually started blending certain elements. Numerous IDM artists have taken beats, vocalists, and even completely skewered the hip-hop genre playfully. Vocal Studies And Uprock Narratives, though, is one of the first releases that I've heard that takes both genres and smooshes them together into something completely new. It's like all the elements of hip-hop have been broken into their individual parts and run through an IDM (for lack of a better genre term, I'll use that) filter.

Beats, vocals (for the most part), and everything else receive almost the same amount of trickery on this release. Whereas in the past, actual lyrics may have survived intact, here they're mostly chopped up and spit out the other end as another sonic element. Scott Herron (of Savath And Savalas and other groups) has definitely come up with an interesting combination, but he's come under some serious fire from hip-hop purists who have slagged him for disrespecting the role of the MC on the release.

One listen to the release, though, should convince just about anyone that this isn't a piss take. On the other end of the spectrum, it probably isn't as highbrow as the title might suggest, either. Herron is just channeling the groove in a different and new way, and wants you to dig it. Although the album moves along with an incredible flow, the first three tracks on the disc work as a nice hook to get the listener interested. The opener of "Radio Attack" starts out with some channel panning of static-filled samples, but soon breaks into a funky beat that manages to keep getting more layered and funky with each measure. The second track "Nuon" introduces more of the cut-up vocal stylings and Herron pairs some some lite female R&B type vocals with a harder edged male rapper to nice effect. It's like a hip-hop duet put through a digital blender, but comes out smooth on the other side.

The third track "Life/Death" is one of the few on the album in which vocal stylings (by Mikah 9) stay fairly intact. Despite some digital trickery, the flow stays intact for the most part and the wicked delivery just adds to the effect. On the rest of the albums 13 tracks, Herron keeps on rolling through the styles nicely and keeps things changing and sounding fresh. After the laid back "Five Minutes Away," he drops the harder hitting "Living Life" (with vocals by Rec Center) and even manages to turn vocals by indie-rock fave Sam Prekop into the butta-smooth, soulful "Last Light."

So, whether it's actually Scott Herron stating the sampled line, "What I didn't want to do was record rappers rapping over a beat, I wanted to do some more classic, something that went backwards in time" on the track "Back In Time," he has managed to create something far more timeless than most of the hip-hop that's flooding the market. Despite the fact that many of the vocals are minced-up, it's still pretty obvious that there's a love for the music shown by the simple crafting of things. People rushing to brand the album may call it IDM-hop or something like that, but whatever you feel like calling it, it's one of the better releases of the year.

Rating: 8.5