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The Only She Chapters
Format: CD / LP / MP3
Release Date: April 26, 2011
By Dave Cantor May 19, 2011

Every second of The Only She Chapters reeks of composerly ambition.

Beginning his recording career as Prefuse 73 a decade back, Scott Herren’s dedicated his work to the advancement of hip-hop production. While his far-reaching efforts haven’t always been embraced by grill-wearing, neighborhood toughs, the six proper long-player’s he’s issued dice up the genre and splice it back together with the sort of intelligence only an astute student of the game might muster.

The Only She Chapters should immediately sound detached from earlier efforts, not necessarily in tone or intent, but structure. Compared to 2009’s Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian (Warp), which surprisingly approached kraut territories on occasion, The Only She Chapters runs together forming a 50-minute procession of subtle production techniques. Making the album such a unique entry in Herren’s catalog is simply the fact that none of the tracks included here seem to have been conceived for the purpose of an emcee rhyming over top it all. There’s really no correlation to Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives (Warp, 2001), the producer’s long-playing debut, which sported verses from DOOM, Aesop Rock, and Mikah 9. And that’s a surprise.

Supplanting rappers on The Only She Chapters, Herren decided to feature a spate of femme-vocalists. Thing is, there aren’t too many lyrics, per se, just a bunch of distant moaning meant as an additional layer for each track. Occasionally, it works. Occasionally, it doesn’t – Faidherbe’s contribution on “The Only Contact She’s Willing To Give” goes so far as to detract from what sounds like a sample from some free-improv dumped into the mix. What’s astounding about Herren’s latest effort is its similarity of intent to Odd Nosdam’s Level Live Wires (Anticon, 2007). The East Bay producer went and approached composing as an exersize in ambiance, drawing as much from minimalism as from Chill Rob G.

With such high praise, Herren’s successful efforts, like the slowly paced, eerie “The Only Valentine’s Day Failure,” are mitigated by sprinkling in all those crooners. Balancing ambition and placating an audience hasn’t ever been the easiest task. And while some longtime fans are going to remain appreciative of Herren’s wide-eyed approach to adapting the medium, The Only She Chapters might just as likely end up in the used bin at your local record emporium. Of course, those passing the exploration of ideas set forth here are most likely the same folks touting Eminen’s verbosity. And that’s nonsense – unless we’re talking about his appearance on that High & Mighty disc.

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