Agitated Atmosphere: Sam Prekop - The Republic

Agitated Atmosphere, Album Reviews
02/20/2015
Justin Spicer

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Sam Prekop.It’s been five long years since Old Punch Card, which found Prekop abandoning the traditional The Sea and Cake pop menagerie for a grizzled, post-electro shock. It was the deconstruction of a persona so carefully built, recklessly smashed against the rocks of change.

It comes as no surprise that in the interim, Prekop’s solo journeys have found him slowly gathering up those pieces and using the glue of The Sea and Cake to put it back together. Yet the finished product, The Republic, sounds little like his previous solo and band efforts. Turns out, Prekop never had any intentions of remaking Old Punch Card or doing a stripped version of his outfit.

The bulk of The Republic is an eponymous 9-part suite of melodic synth far warmer and more immediate than Old Punch Card. Created as part of an art installation, the pieces can stand on their own. In fact, separate for the accompanying videos for which the first half of The Republic was created, Prekop performs his most daring act as a solo performer. Without the visual medium as a net, Prekop dares his soundtrack to stand on its own. The mesmerizing synthetic waves and metallic notes that dot the white noise landscape do just that, unafraid of the spotlight.

Yet the biggest weight of responsibility falls to the album’s second half, where an EP’s worth of material separate from the performance piece sit. Well, sit is the wrong verb. They dance, flitter and soar. “Weather Vane” is the closest approximation of Prekop’s disparate solo works colliding with his band’s aesthetic. It’s a fizzling drizzle of electronic raindrops as Prekop’s melody measuredly splashes in the resulting mud puddles. “Ghost,” while haunted by the specter of its title, is also the first hint of Prekop beginning to explore the La Monte Young space of futuristic sound meeting traditional compositional form, turning into a near homage to the latter’s protégé, Jordan de la Sierra. One must pause before using such comparisons, but the strange New Age aura that floats above the second half of The Republic should not be ignored. But don’t mistake New Age as code for boring.

What is clear is that much of Prekop’s solo work is producing far more provocative sounds than one would imagine from his day band. Much like Old Punch Card before it, The Republic finds Prekop tightly grasping onto ideas and following them to marvelous new discoveries that pushes his pop tendencies well past their stretching point.

Justin Spicer is an editor and journalist who writes for Tiny Mix Tapes and Ad Hoc among others. You can find him on Twitter.

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