Last Night: Prefuse 73, Eliot Lipp and PG 13 at Heathrow Lounge

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Prefuse 73 with Eliot Lipp and PG 13
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Heathrow Lounge, Miami Beach


Better Than: Any of the usual Sunday night mainstream hip-hop club nights.

One of the many cool things about Art Basel is all the cool music acts that it brings down to our sandy shores. Case in point, last night the always-eclectic Prefuse 73 was in town--along with label mate Eliot Lip, local star producer PG 13 and other guests DJs.

The place for the venue was the (newish) Heathrow Lounge in South Beach -- one of the few places on the beach that sponsors leftfield music and, thankfully, provides comfy couches for people to sit, unlike those beach clubs that charge you for bottle service for the privilege of sitting down.

People started coming in around 11 p.m., at the time PG 13 was crafting some adventurous, yet melodic digital grooves. And in case you are wondering, last night's crowd consisted of a cool mix of cute art school students, neo b-boys, assorted free-spirits and bearded laptop-beat nerds.

The set from Eliot Lipp was a revelation in hip-hop melody; all the beats were matched by cool synthetic keyboard noises and it finally got the crowd up from the afore mentioned comfy couches. After an hour -- or so -- preparations began for Mr. Scott Herren (Prefuse 73) to take the reigns. There were some delays connecting the two MacBooks Pro's to the two piano keyboards, but the crowd didn't seem to mind. In fact, the place was energized when the house DJ played a set of choice old school hip-hop cuts like Afrika Bambaataa's classic "Planet Rock" and the always-welcome Beastie Boys' "Brass Monkey."

By the time Prefuse took over the laptops, local b-boys were pulling fast breaks all around the dance floor. Sporting long shoulder length hair and wearing a plain white T-shirt Prefuse saluted his gathering (also taking a moment to apologize for the delay,) and went on to get everyone's attention with a loud shrieking of his digital drums.  

Now let's get a few things clear. First, Prefuse's hip-hop has absolutely nothing to do with anything on mainstream radio. In fact, while I was listening -- and enjoying his set -- the idea occurred to me that his style is a hybrid between DJ Shadow and Apex Twin. Second, Prefuse sonic bombast can be hard for people accustomed to traditional melodies, those oblong beats of his verge on the cutting edge of experimental music.

Which brings me to my third point: Prefuse's music can be hard to review on paper; it's something that I believe, you have to experience for yourself. No amount of written words can really do the man's work justice.

That said, Prefuse 73 syncopating unmelodic, and fast style tends to have a hypnotic effect on the listener. At last night's show many in the crowd stood back, immersing themselves on the waves of digital sound in Prefuse's vast arsenal. And after 20 minutes or so of droning drumbeats, clear, beautiful melodies started to emerge from his keyboards, making it a flawless exercise in avant garde hip-hop.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Our kid, PG 13 rocking the crowd and representing MIA with his inimitable sound collage.

By The Way: Prefuse's next album will be all analog! How will it affect his future DJ sets remains to be seen, but his new LP should be an interesting step forward (is analog forward?) in the Prefuse repertoire.

-- Jose Davila
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