Humble titan of understated exquisiteness Sam Prekop is back with his first solo record since 2010’s Old Punch Card. The Republic continues his explorations into modular synthesis and fuses meticulous methodology with wide-eyed wonder and melodic beauty. Fans of The Sea & Cake will appreciate the consistent high quality of his output, making any new album a real event. Out on CD and vinyl LP from Thrill Jockey.
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Sam Prekop is keeping up the current trend of drone albums that envision, homage or dedicate themselves to cats, joining Fabio Orsi in the pantheon of ambient artists who offer up pictures of their really adorable pets. ‘The Republic’ is slightly less comforting than Orsi’s record, which sounded like a sentient ball of fur coming up to you and politely scratching ‘til it gets food, though -- Prekop’s game is more twisted and abnormal, as his interest lies in making modular messes, crafting compelling records that veer between gorgeous, airborne soundscapes and scattered avant-garde fumblings. Think Stars of the Lid getting a visitation from Morton Subotnick on the eve of a new millennium, and you’ve got ‘The Republic’.
‘The Republic’ acts as a collection of vignettes that have taken place of long-form pieces, as if Prekop has realised there’s a beauty in truncating and mutating, opting to edit his pieces into a collage. Whirring effects are interchanged constantly, and the rising, omniscient drones he creates with his synth are constantly given shorthand treatment, as if their beauty needs to be tempered and undercut. Prekop is not an ambient romantic: his work considers the harshness of abruptness and its value in a genre of beautification. With his obsession with the sharper aesthetics he can draw out of modular compositions, Prekop recalls the solo work of Jason Urick, if it were less sustained. The result is a fascinating collection of occasionally pretty music that asks you to pay attention to the randomness of everyday life.
Occasionally Prekop's work indulges in warm tones and the ambiguous, foggy gorgeousness expected of ambient composition -- after the nine-tracked suite that is "The Republic", he dives into "Weather Vane" with kraut-y synths, soft as soup chords and inviting IDM beats -- but there's more intrigue in his hack-n-slash take on avant-garde. Work your way through it and marvel at the lack of end point.
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