Prefuse 73, MO Theory
The Pour House
Sept. 16

There’s no question that Guillermo Scott Herren — a.k.a. Prefuse 73, one of the many aliases under which he releases music — is an insanely prolific beatmaster. His sliced and chopped beats channel hip-hop and myriad other influences from far and wide. He routinely collaborates with or remixes acts as diverse as Norwegian pop star Erlend Oye, Def Jux rapper Aesop Rock, rock band TV on the Radio, and found-sound manipulators The Books.

His craft comes across clearly when listening to the beats in the best of his recorded output, whether his own work or his remixes. The funky, head-nodding rhythms engage the mind as much as the body. The various mixture of manipulated sounds reveal his keen ear for unique textures. Subtle bits of syncopation bubble up with repeat listens.

The question is, how do you translate that into a live performance? Unfortunately, on Wednesday night, the answer for Prefuse 73 was: you don’t.

At the stagefront, Herren twiddled with his laptop to create bits of abstract noise and textures from samples and clips of his voice recorded from a microphone, while his un-named collaborator spliced up beats with a sequencer alongside. While the constant change-ups of rhythm were perfectly mixed and kept ears engaged over the short term, the set’s ebb and flow never carried much forward momentum. Bodies were left dancing erratically. This didn’t seem to bother most of the crowd. Toward the end of the night, however, there were quite a few people standing back that weren’t too locked in.

In order to differentiate itself from a DJ or even its own studio output, a truly good live electronic act must give the audience the impression that something is actually happening up on stage beyond pressing “play” behind a laptop. Some insight into the craft of a performance, even something as simple as a mismatched beat transition, goes a long way to that end. On this night, Prefuse 73 didn’t quite deliver, and there wasn’t much point in being present to watch.

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