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Prefuse 73: Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian (Album Review)

Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian, Prefuse 73’s fifth full-length, is most notable for both its brevity (most of the tracks clock in around a minute) and its use of the analog Ampex tape instead of digital recording techniques. Before I heard the album, I imagined a glitchy version of Bee Thousand as the starting point for My Dream Prefuse 73 Album. That dream was promptly shattered. But my disappointment originates in neither the lack of tape hiss nor the inconsistency and un-shuffleability of the tracks.

I value the Ampexian idea. I see its tape loops as either an attempt to animate The Campfire Headphase inlay or (as the cover hints) to pay a tribute to ’50s sci-fi movies (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing these days), and I also acknowledge the album’s wide variety of styles and moods, certainly an impossible task to pull off in lesser hands. But why don’t the tracks fit into a connected narrative, even when they are perfectly segueing one into another? These minute-and-a-half bits would’ve been better remembered as a nice soundtrack for zapping between catchy visuals. As is, the tracks feel adrift and overshadowed by technicality.

Indeed, the general aimlessness makes Ampexian play more like an outtakes collection. Maybe it’s the rapping renunciation that led to the poor structure of the tracks, and perhaps scrapbooking was conceived as the way to conceal it: every time I search for the album’s flow, I feel like rummaging the scrap-bin full of underdeveloped sketches, however good they may be. Or perhaps Sergei Prokofiev’s Visions Fugitives would’ve been a better guideline for wistful reveries; going for Donuts turns the record into a heap of intermissions, a tribute to the time not wasted, but spent in between destinations.

Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian ultimately falls between One Word Extinguisher and a tape loop version of the locked groove LP — an odd dynamic, to be sure. While definitely not an ideological Plan 9 soundtrack, it’s not an unearthly eyeful either.