PREFUSE 73 + Battles + Beans @ Cabaret

By Gregor Tedford - Digressions - 05/08/05

After missing Airborne Audio at La Tulipe on May 6th, I swore I wouldn’t be late for a show again. Alas, Sunday was Mother’s Day, so I ended up calling her from a phone booth on the way to the show and missing the opening of Airborne Audio’s former partner in rhyme, Beans of Antipop Consortium fame. I walked in to Beans ripping up one of his trademark stream of consciousness raps. Beans has a punchy staccato flow and while it does not lend itself well to mainstream pop radio airplay, it works well in an intimate dub poetry kind of setting. His bouncy headbanging stage antics are more akin to a punk aesthetic than to traditional rap ensembles, which marries well with his high energy stage presence. His four-piece backing band Holy Fuck -- consisting of a drummer, a bass player, a sampler/sequencer operator and another guy supplying assorted effects/distortions with an array of peddles and some kind of weird ticker tape machine -- provided adequate musical flourishes to accompany Beans’ MP3 player beats. All in all, they fared well, keeping up with Beans, but could’ve used a lesson in the less-is-more school of philosophy.

Next came Battles, a New York quartet with a drummer and three guitarists. Two of the latter group did double duty on guitar and keyboards, and the other one was working a vocoder/distorted mic, which he would pull out at odd intervals during the show. They had the same kind of shoe-gazing, introspective feel reminiscent of M83, only with more emphasis on the psychedelic, jam band side of prog rock. At times, they degenerated into a cacophony of sound, but their drummer held them together with his hard frenetic percussion. They managed to hold the crowd throughout their hour-long set, even though they could’ve used more orchestration and a tighter sound, in my opinion.

Prefuse 73 appeared at intervals during the lengthy set-up, putting in place two full drum kits, one turntablist on two decks, one bassist/groove box player and the mediocre DJ who played between sets working one half of a banquet table full of whirring colored boxes and wires. Scott Herren, the man himself, went back and forth between the second drum kit and a variety of MIDI keyboards, samplers and processors. Prefuse 73 and co. managed to keep the sonic assault heavy, segueing quickly from one track to the next, not leaving much time for a collective breath. Battles should’ve been taking lessons, in that Prefuse 73 and his band were certainly noisy, but succeeded in choreographing that noise into a cohesive whole. The turntablist was mediocre and his contribution a little lost amid the other sounds, and while the bass playing was adequate if not a little sloppy, I could’ve done entirely without his inane noodlings on the groove box, which added nothing to the whole of the experience. However, the rest of the band more than made up for it, handling the tempo/time changes with skill, working through an excellent rendition of ‘Suite For The Way Things Change’ .

Prefuse 73 had a tight crisp sound, not disappointing in the slightest in terms bringing his studio productions to the stage, lacking only a little in presence; not once did he look at or engage with the crowd, other than the most humble bows between the two encores. However, the crowd didn’t seem to mind since they were the right kind of pseudo intellectual aging hipsters -- myself included -- aside from the dickhead with no shirt and a toothbrush stuck in his upside-down visor ski goggle ensemble, walking around asking, “as-tu du pot à vendre?”.

[Tune in to Disgressions Tuesdays 2pm – 4pm]