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A Triple Threat
Avant-garde multi-instrumentalist, electronic producer/musician, and tripped-out mofo Guillermo Scott Herren possesses the versatility and open-eared creative juices that few contemporary, self-proclaimed boundary-pushing artists boast. His mission is clear: take listeners on a sensory journey, where any and every sound makes sense as one, and where unrelated noises and elements collide to somehow create a unique sonic experience. Herren sets out on an all-out musical blitzkrieg on this quest: He’s the sole mastermind behind numerous acts, including Delarosa and Asora, Piano Overlord, and Prefuse 73, and is a member of several collaborative groups, including Savath y Savalas, Risil, and Diamond Watch Wrists. As one of the most prolific producers in the independent experimental underground, Herren sets out to dominate with a triple-threat masterpiece: Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian as Prefuse 73, Ice Capped At Both Ends under the Diamond Watch Wrists moniker, and Savath y Savalas’ La Llama, all released in the same year.
The three-album release cycle under his various aliases best exemplifies Herren’s aforementioned creative control of the mind, yet it should never be treated as a triple album. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Between Ampexian, Ice Capped, and La Llama, nothing is the same, and a single sitting listening of the three only solidifies Herren’s shape-shifting ability to move across genres with ease.
Prefuse 73’s Ampexian, easily the strongest of the three releases, spotlights Herren’s background in hip-hop production, boasting sample-heavy tracks with layers upon layers stacked thicker than Slick Rick’s gold rope chain. Herren mashes an array of archived ambient noise with minimal vocal samples thrown into the mix, ultimately topped with microcosmic loops and hypnotizing drum tracks and recorded to analog Ampex tape (a nod to the titular album) for an overall flashback feel.
Ampexian defies traditional composition rules. With a total running time of just over 48 minutes, approximately 41 percent of all the tracks run less than a minute long. Yet somehow these mini-songs bang louder than their longer counterparts and form the essence in which the flow of the album builds upon. Ampexian’s climax happens early on with a short stretch when the stoner-rap friendly “Get Em High” smoothes its way into the hip-tronic “Ampexian Tribe of a Lesser Time.” It’s followed by the Asian lullaby-like “When Is A Good Time?” and finishes strong with the soothing, and aptly titled “Fountains of Spring.”
Some will fault Herren for hooking listeners with his trance-inducing beats only to abruptly abandon them 30 seconds in, but that’s the point of Ampexian. He seduces listeners with mesmerizing, never-before-heard sounds. Once you bite, Herren reels you in only to feed you more analog bliss. In the end, the unorthodox mini-songs keep building with disconnected moods, fluctuating genres, and what seem like random running times to ultimately create a linear flow.
As Diamond Watch Wrists, Herren teams with celebrated drummer Zach Hill, a fellow fruitful artist best known for his work with math/noise/experimental rockers Hella, for a dream pairing of psychedelia perfection. Ice Capped presents a collection of lush, aural, melodic mind-fucks across new-era psychedelic folk with tinges of electronic blips buried deep in a multi-layered jungle.
Tracks come stocked with beautifully stratous guitar and vocal melodies completed by Hill’s immaculate skin bashing. From opener “My Last Time In His Place,” where Hill shines best, Ice Capped works to simultaneously soothe and freak out listeners. “Start Wrong” is built primarily on sensual hymns straight from the mouths of rejected saints high on mescaline. Bare tracks like “Simple Love Notes” and “Ending” entrance listeners most, where less is more; emptier compositions create more headspace to embrace the trip.
Herren finishes his trinity with La Llama, the fourth release from his collaborative group Savath y Savalas. An NPR-friendly romp through Catalan folk, La Llama can be easily confused as a Catalan/Spanish version of Ice Capped. The cultural influences are indeed genuine: Herren’s father is Catalan, while his mother is of Irish-Cuban descent, and the group is composed of Spanish artist Eva Puyuelo Muns and the recently welcomed Roberto Carlos Lange, a sound artist of Ecuadorian heritage.
While the multicultural trio sounds rich in diversity, La Llama lacks much of it and carries an almost identical ring to Ice Capped. La Llama follows a robotic flow of soft guitar melodies and mechanical vocal droning. The beauty still resonates, however, as the foreign lyrics add a mystifying element unheard in any of the three releases. Rest assured that neither Ice Capped nor La Llama is a bore fest, instead a toned-down head-trip of global psychedelic folk.