PREFUSE 73’s new Security Screenings (Warp) is as much a clinic as an album. Few hip-hop producers, mainstream or underground, are capable of creating such dense sampladelic patchworks–Scott Herren not only nicks from a sprawling range of genres, somehow making every chopped-up bit fit snugly among the others, but constructs his tracks so that they develop over their length in satisfying and tuneful ways. On last year’s Surrounded by Silence a distracting parade of guest vocalists and musicians blunted the impact of his production, but the new one puts the focus back where it belongs–there are only two guests, Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden and TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, and they appear on one track apiece. Unfortunately this comes off as a retreat rather than a retrenchment: the music is still astonishing, constantly transforming itself and swarming with a ridiculous level of detail, but there’s nothing here Herren didn’t tackle on 2001’s pacesetting Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives. Maybe with all the projects he’s got going–Savath & Savalas, Piano Overlord, Delarosa and Asora–he’s just spreading his genius a little too thin. –Peter Margasak
The difference between EDAN’s 2002 debut, Primitive Plus, and last year’s Beauty and the Beat (Lewis) is like the difference between A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, between Friendster and MySpace, between a high school prom and an alien-abduction experience. In a breathtaking quantum leap, he’s gone from hilarious geek rap and frolicsome sound-over-sense ramblings to vividly surreal lines snapped off with the unironic intensity of a street-corner doomsday preacher: “I drop science down a bottomless pit / Run swift, do a handstand on pyramid tips,” he’ll brag, or “I fought fear with the hammer Thor lent me / And tangled with the angel of death for four centuries.” The production is equally intense and idiosyncratic, without a sliver of negative space: a roiling mess of reverb seeps into every last nook of the mix, the songs are glued together with swirling collages of noise and samples (dudes getting tortured, Hebrew pop, what sounds like a tape recorder left running at a construction site), and though the boom-bap is relatively subdued, that’s just to make room for horns, strings, gurgling psychedelic guitars, even a stray harp. Out of this maelstrom Edan somehow conjures a range of moods–the fire-and-brimstone slow grind of “Rock and Roll,” the spaced-out hippie meandering of “I See Colours,” the exuberant fanfare of “Promised Land.” Beauty and the Beat is one of the most original hip-hop albums I’ve ever heard. –Kabir Hamid
Prefuse 73 headlines, Edan performs second (with Dagha, who guests on “Rock and Roll”), and Excepter opens. Fri 5/12, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15.