By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
Shuffling between pseudonyms like Delarosa and Asora (currently retired), Prefuse 73 (his most popular), and Savath & Savalas (now the intelligentsia favorite), Scott Herren has created a steady string of productions ranging from digitally flecked folk to frayed hip-hop. Yet he has also suffered from an identity crisis in the process. In the past, too, he has battled against being labeled as someone with a distinct agenda. Some critics, for example, have mistakenly asserted that the stuttered vocal flow of his Prefuse 73 material was a rebellion against the convention(s) of rhythmic verse, when in fact it was simply a fresh spin on hip-hop beats.
The arrival of Savath & Savalas' Apropa't won't come without proclamations of Herren's supposed intentions, since his latest production appears to originate from a specific cultural perspective. To begin with, Apropa't, Herren's first Savath & Savalas project since 2000's Folk Songs for Trains, Trees and Honey, results from a relocation to Barcelona, where Herren moved in 2002 to explore his family heritage. It is also a collaborative effort between him and Catalan singer Eva Puyuelo Muns, blending Herren's musical idiosyncrasies and Muns' wispy vocals into a singular piece of art.
The overriding mood of Apropa't is of introspective twilight. It is an album imbued with reflections cast when day turns to night, when there is something to contemplate and even more to anticipate. It embodies saudade, a semi-nebulous Portuguese concept of nostalgic homesickness, a feeling borne of sailors reunited with missing loved ones. It incorporates these emotions while echoing its inspirations: tropicalia, the Brazilian psychedelia of the '70s, and untouched Afro-Cuban folk.
Eschewing Warp Records' penchant for exactingly austere electronics, Apropa't is a 40-minute concept cycle, leaving human "error" intact in a recording made with copious amounts of air. There is a discreet brush of beats throughout the record, gentle as the soft sweep of a lover's hair under one's nose, seductive. Apropa't is a haunting work gracefully exercising and exorcising identity issues, and, paradoxically, it makes Herren's artistic identity stronger than ever.