14-02-06 suggested by: Zé Vance
-Peter Macia, February 7, 2006
Few albums since Metal Machine Music have been as aptly titled as Security Screenings. As with airports, its moments can snap from pleasant daydream to unnecessary hassle in the time it takes to put your handgun in someone else's bag. In an effort to get into the mind of Guillermo Scott Herren, I took this album to a luggage store in Koreatown (not exactly the airport, but similar), where I suggested to the owner that I would only bag-shop to theme music. He told me to "go fuck," so I went and listened in the alley.
First things first: Herren insists that this is not an "actual" album. I have no idea what this means, but critical preemptions aside, Security Screenings is a marked improvement over last year's directionless Surrounded by Silence, which missed its mark of collaborative opus. Songs here wander but don't get lost, the subtlety of their direction possibly a result of Herren's humbling tumble from avant garde b-boy to laptop nomad. The shuffling ephemera of his previous work is again evident, as are the melodies that abstained from the bizarre street anthems of Silence.
Whether recording under the guise of Prefuse, Savath, Delarosa, or Piano Overlord, Scott Herren is at his most listenable when his influences are tangled, not strewn about. "Weight Watching", which begins with a chopped sample of Mobb Deep's Prodigy, unfolds into a kaleidoscope of clanging knives and Herren's signature oil-and-water synth flourishes. It's the one beat on Security Screenings that could support an MC, but Herren smartly keeps the sampled P on announcer status. And that's the difference here: Herren is measured. He may reach at times, but never enough to fall off.
Striking another sharp contrast to Surrounded by Silence, Security Screenings' two guests actually contribute the album's two finest moments. Four Tet's appearance on "Creating Cyclical Headaches" sounds exactly as you might expect, a rambling FT break and bubbling keyboard scathed by Herren's free-noise, fading out to a plucked acoustic. It's possible that I may simply prefer Kieran Hebden's drums to Herren's, but Hebden can often be too prettily pastoral, which is why Herren's industrial grind makes for a welcome pair-up. TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe, meanwhile, is given credit on "We Leave You in a Cloud of Thick Smoke and Sleep Outro", but his voice is sampled and layered until it merely becomes ambient drone. Still, this serves as a reminder that Herren is wholly capable of creating modest soundscapes from opportune moments, and an indication that the criticism of Silence's stargazing may have had some effect-- although I suppose we'll have to wait for his actual album to find out if anything has changed.
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