While Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist Sam Prekop is best known by many as the singer and guitarist from The Sea And Cake, his preceding 2010 album ‘Old Punch Card‘ saw him eschewing acoustic instruments almost entirely in favour of crafting tracks with his increasingly growing collection of modular synthesisers and analogue sequencers. In the wake of The Sea And Cake’s 2012 album ‘Runner’, which saw modular synths increasingly working their way into the band’s arrangements, this latest solo album ‘The Republic’ sees Prekop reprising the working methods he employed on ‘Old Punch Card’, but if anything this is a far more warm and inviting collection than its occasionally abrasive predecessor. The first half of this album consists of nine tracks that were originally written to accompany David Hartt’s video installation ‘The Republic’ at the David Nolan Gallery in New York.
As you might expect, they offer up what’s easily the more ambient and minimalist side of this album, with ‘The Republic 1’ slowly whirring into focus amidst humming synth drones and church organ-like tones, before a swelling wash of textures suddenly reaches out to wrap the entire mix in a gauzy glow that almost masks the eerie squeals being modulated in the background. If ‘The Republic 2’ conjures up the antiseptic stillness of a hospital as icy synth drones ebb and pulse against glitchy crackles, before ‘The Republic 6’ gets more playful, sending a colourful synth arpeggio stuttering against sheeny pads and filtered washes, before the entrance of a brooding bass drone finishes things on a slightly more sombre note.
If anything, the additional new tracks that make up the second half of the tracklisting see things getting quite a bit more lush and inviting. ‘Weather Vane’ even sees a 4/4 house beat making a brief appearance beneath a spectral wash of slow arpeggiated pads and dubbed-out percussive tones, while elsewhere ‘Invisible’ conjures associations with the likes of Tangerine Dream as elegant widescreen synth arrangements stretch out to the horizon against gently burbling sequencer lines and sweeping background ambience. ‘The Republic’ is easily one of the most accessible and inviting albums based completely around modular synthesis that I’ve heard in a long time.