Extinguished: Outtakes, Alternate Takes And Beats
an, if this is what an EP of Prefuse 73’s castoffs sounds like, then how cohesive must Scott Herren’s normal output be? Here we have 23 tracks in 37 minutes that often sound more like mini-suites or variations on a theme, and the whole thing flows seamlessly. Extinguished doesn’t feel like some fan-only outtakes disc, it feels like a unified whole.
Witness the way “Whisper In My Ear To Tell Me You Hate Me”/“One For The Crime Scene, A Bullet For Your Time”/“Vikings Invade The Mediterranean But Don’t Leave” slurs together even though each track has a distinct sound, only to be rudely interrupted by the thick slide of “Diarrhea Takes Over Your Life”, before it coalesces and moves on. Each track is a tiny impeccable nugget of sound, glitch and melody, but connects adhesively with what comes before and after.
And yet this flow comes at the expense (as it often does) of focus. Not that Herren sprawls into jammy looseness; the one longer track here, “Drum Machine, Cello, Headwrap”, may go over six minutes but is as relentless as the 87-second “I Got No Time For Rearviews”. And it’s certainly not that these little primarily instrumental snippets aren’t able to convey a feeling, a tone, or even a viewpoint the way a conventional pop song can; Herren’s deft beats and melodies wear their hearts on their sleeves.
It’s that Extinguished is terribly easy to gloss over. Although the tracks are uniformly of high quality, there’s not a lot of purchase for the listener into the constantly-shifting soundscape, which means that at its best Herren creates true ambient music; easy to ignore, but vastly rewarding if your attention is fully focused.
“Sao Paulo Arkansas” is a perfect example, starting out as a beautifully melodic groover and then flipping near the end of its 83 seconds into some radio channels culminating in what sounds like an old Spiral Stairs Pavement song heard on a broken radio before it turns into “Coming Into Something Better”, which mimics the initial melody of “Sao Paulo…”. It’s enough to keep heads nodding, even if you’re not paying attention, but as soon as you really begin to appreciate it, it’s gone.
This quality of shiftiness, then, and the way Extinguished plays more like an extended megamix of bits and pieces, its magpie emphasis on ‘hey, look at this!’ keeping it from being truly great. And as a result, as much fun as the rapid shifts of Extinguished are, it’s not surprising that it’s only being released after the brilliant One Word Extinguisher received the reception it did..
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2003-10-16