Sam Prekop The Republic

[Thrill Jockey; 2015]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: modular synthesis, ambient, abstract expressionism
Others: Tangerine Dream, Emeralds, Raymond Scott, Nuno Canavarro, Terry Riley, “On The Run”

As one forever bewitched by the dulcet tones and nimble-footed rhythms of Sam Prekop’s self-titled debut, I can sympathize with those who might be disappointed with another release of modular synthesizer experiments. But rather than give up on the guy, I was instead inclined to go back to 2010’s Old Punch Card and try to find something to latch onto. I mean, if I could love the keyboard-inclined Sea and Cake album The Fawn, I don’t see why I shouldn’t go one further and grapple with an all-synthetic habitrail of tactile sound patterns. And while there are many others tackling similar ground exclusively, I’m glad to say that — after several listens — there’s plenty of that signature pensive, measured Prekop feel to be found on these records.

The multi-talented Prekop is and has always been a master of stately serenity. Everything he makes (or collaborates in) exudes a mellow grandeur that elevates it beyond its reading room functionality. It’s like chillout music for people who are uncomfortable with the idleness that the term connotes. With these two last albums in particular, he’s established a tone of unguided meditation. The Republic, as with Old Punch Card, is an album of middles. While that may sound like a put-down (“middling”), it is actually what makes the work so endearing. These sequences don’t announce themselves or give in to punctuation. They float in and out of one’s consciousness like busy little villages from the point of view of a sleepy passenger on the transcontinental railway. Contained in each track is a frozen blur that if drawn into focus could only become less meaningful. Prekop is making hundreds of little meals out of the overwhelm that is simultaneous planes of existence working vexingly independent of one another. And they become quite delectable after awhile.

This music is too plaintive to be irksome yet too restless for a sleep aid. It’s like a video game where exploring is the central objective and main attraction. If you get somewhere, that’s the sad goodbye. Such are the wistfully infinite results of Prekop’s improvised approach to sound sculpting. As with Old Punch Card’s “The Silhouettes,” this release slightly misleads by premiering its anomolously cohesive, song-like track. “Weather Vane” employs a steady metronomic beat at its center, climbing the rotating pyramid steps with a purpose that almost (but not quite) escapes the MC Escher obfuscation of the neighboring selections. These are both great introductory pieces, for they gently offer a friendly hand into realms of pure abstraction. They both exude a warmth that can be found in even the most angular, amelodic sections if one meets Prekop’s uniquely benign sort of wonder half way.

This uniqueness can’t be stressed enough. Sam Prekop is one of those essential voices in the massive, standard-bearing, rule-breaking, celebratory fabric of music. And while some may initially think eh, I like the old stuff better (guilty), there’s much of that vital Prekopness to be found in these furtive meanderings. There is an almost plant-like sensation in relation to The Republic’s gradual charm. Given time, these transmissions work on a person like a vast overgrowth, subsuming one’s fastidious human preoccupations. When it hits you right, it’s like that first big beam of sunlight after weeks of cloudy sky. One need only position themselves accordingly and bask.

Links: Sam Prekop - Thrill Jockey

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