This week (technically Monday) marks the 10th anniversary of one of the most challenging, beautiful, and intriguing records of this millennium. A spasmodic, convulsive compilation of glitch melodies, head nodding beats, quick rap verses, and expansive soundscapes. Prefuse 73’s One Word Extinguisher isn’t just IDM or hip hop or downtempo. It focuses on evolving sounds into music, cobbling them together only to rip them apart over and over again.
It takes a man of many personalities to create such cohesive yet disparate sounds into a record. (Guillermo) Scott Heren aka Prefuse 73, aka Savath and Savalas, aka Delarosa and Asora, aka Piano Overlord, aka Ahmad Szabo (wow that’s a lot!) seemed to put all those personalities together for this one. Yet he can’t seem to keep it together. In the hour of music that is One Word Extinguisher he manages to cram together 21 tracks. But really, each “song” has so many different twists, turns, and oscillations that it would be more fair to say there are 40, 50, or even 60 different musical motifs within the record.
“Plastic” remains one of the few tracks where the beat and verse are in tune. Diverse mocks a plastic culture but is held in place by a locked in, inventive beat that might as well sample a satellite. Listen to “Busy Signal” as beat boxing evolves from a hip hop beat to a smooth, jazzy break and ends AM radio romance. The funny background noise of the title track gives way to a boom bap production. “90% Of My Mind Is With You” promises some concentration with soft production yet, in the final 20 seconds, all king of love jams spill into the mix, cementing the romance or lack thereof. “Invigorate” enchants for a little over a minute before it disappears into the bells from which it began. “Choking” might be the most palatable, easiest to follow of the compositions. But it hits hard, an idyllic combination of compressed synths and a relaxed tempo. Similarly, “Storm Returns” is focused on a vibe and refuses to leave until it’s far too late. Some phone calls litter “Esta,” a relaxing diversion before the beautiful, bossa-nova-beats of “Pentagram.” By the time the record is over I can’t tell what I heard or what I forgot to hear.
Maybe that is it’s real charm. One Word Extinguisher could have elevated Prefuse 73 into the lexicon of legendary experimentalists. Instead, this record became the Loaded of the backpack beat maker generation. Every one who bought it went on to buy their own sampler, drum machine, and midi keyboard. Instead of stagnating as an unlistenable yet iconic relic so far removed from society, it lives on as the DNA of modern music.