Prefuse 73/Jaytram/Epstein Review
Written by Fionn Hodgson
December 16, 2010 7:01 pm
Electronic music isn’t all about pounding four-to-the-floor beats, dirty synth basslines and catchy vocal divas. Once you leave the cosy realms of dance music, electronica is quite arguably the most vast and varied music there is.
I remember the day I first discovered instrumental Hip Hop and Downtempo music. I had a friend who was a bit older, and a lot more cool than me and he used to listen to ‘the next big thing’ usually a few years before it actually became big. Several years ago, I was round his house playing video games despite the glorious summer weather outside. He decided to replace the sound of the TV with his latest iTunes playlist. After about twenty minutes of listening I handed him a piece of paper and asked him to write down exactly what we were listening to.
I fell in love with several artists over the next couple of weeks as I discovered a range of Downtempo styles including instrumental Hip Hop, Illbient and Acid Jazz. It’s an incredibly flexible style of music, unbound by the strict production standards of House, Jungle or Electro and determined to keep its creativity as a non-mainstream genre.
Let’s start talking about Prefuse 73/Jaytram/Epstein then. Available to buy as an mp3 download as of Monday, this is the latest example of the delights of Downtempo music. It’s technically a remix album, with Prefuse 73 and Jaytram taking the extensive works of Epstein and filtering it through their own creative systems. The result: quite possibly the most interesting album I’ve heard this year. There’s something incredibly organic about the whole sound; it warmed me up as soon as I started playing track one. Everything is thick, loose and fat with a huge range of carefully manipulated samples. Nothing stays the same for more than a couple of seconds.
So is it any good? Creativity and experimentation doesn’t automatically create a good album. Well it’s tricky to compare it to anything already released as it doesn’t really adhere strictly to any particular genre in the same way that mainstream electronic music does. Each track on the album is also very different, with Haunted Hotel Beat – a juicy and laid back Hip Hop romp followed by Learning Dream – a dark and tense shuffle with smoking hot brass sections. I’m even reluctant to shunt the album under the category of Downtempo because quite a few of the tracks aren’t slow or relaxing at all. Well, I like it anyway. There’s plenty of skill here too, from a creative and a production point of view. Despite the occasional use of retro drum samples and the chunks of orchestral score taken from Epstein, it manages to sound fresh at the same time as evoking the pleasures of nostalgia – something alternative electronica does best.
Jaytram’s remixes are warm and organic whereas the work of Prefuse 73, heard in the second half of the album, is far more synthetic. This isn’t a bad thing either, as it provides an entirely fresh sound half way through the work. Everything remains dense and interesting with plenty going on. The raw bleeps of the synths seem to work seamlessly with the softer samples.
Any criticism? Well I thoroughly enjoyed this work and highly recommend it to you but I feel that there’s still few more things that could have been tried with this album. While the work began with some interesting work with vocals, they were strangely absent through most of the rest of the album. I’d have loved to have heard some more interesting sounds with electronically manipulated sung and rapped vocal samples, and after getting the taste of blood on the first track I was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t the case. Still, there’s always next time – and I’ll definitely be listening to that too.