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Prefuse 73:: Reads The Books (Album Review)

Talk about thwarted expectations! In a tantalizing teaser posted at the Prefuse 73 site last October, Scott Herren described his soon-to-be-released project with The Books (Massachusetts duo Nick Willscher Zammuto and Paul De Jong) as follows: “”Why do they need to collab with me or need beats at all?” – So you can bang The Books in your Jeep!!!!! CMON!” Forgive me, then, for expecting a disc full of potent bangers similar to “Pagina Dos,” the stunning collab originally heard on Surrounded by Silence and now reprised on the 23-minute Prefuse 73 Reads The Books alongside six others (actually seven, but the 10-second intro’s a fragment of no consequence). As one would expect, the fusion of The Books’ folk stylings and traditional instrumentation (cellos, banjos, clavinets) with Prefuse’s hip-hop stutter-funk produces fresh moments, just not as many as desired. While the merging of bluegrass banjo-picking with buttery vocal hooks and snapping beats in “Pagina Dos” remains alluring, none of the other material comes close to matching it: “Pagina Tres” and “Pagina Cuatro” find Herren in hallucinatory collage mode, while loping head-nodders like “Pagina Cinco” and “Pagina Siete” are credible but, by Prefuse standards, hardly spectacular; the set does, however, exit on a high when Claudia Maria Deheza’s sparkling vocal breathes sensuous life into the languid “Pagina Ocho.” But even with the conciliation of expectation to reality, the EP seems ultimately less an essential Prefuse document than an indulgent curio that includes just enough memorable moments to satisfy the completist. (Ron Schepper-Jmedia)