Sam Prekop / John McEntire: Sons Of Album Review

July 27, 2022 - Uncategorized

The Sea and Cake have always radiated an unusual mixture of ease and control. Their balmy chords and sighing vocals may be redolent of lazy Mediterranean afternoons—Campari on ice, old-money sailboats—yet their rhythms remain impeccably unwrinkled. In contrast, Sam Prekop’s solo electronic work has always been playful, restless, maybe even a little bit reckless. Locked away in his home studio, the Chicago musician approaches his modular synthesizers like a genially rumpled Hollywood scientist, lab coat stained with strangely colored chemicals. Haywire arpeggios twitch and jerk; splotchy sounds undulate like cartoon amoebas. Infused with a guileless and inquisitive spirit, Prekop’s music is experimental in the most literal sense: What happens when I push this button?

Sons Of is the first duo record from Prekop and his longtime Sea and Cake bandmate John McEntire, a producer and percussionist who, between his time in Chicago groups like Tortoise and his work behind the boards for Stereolab and Teenage Fanclub, has put his stamp on decades of indie and post-rock. But the project is a long time coming: A dozen years ago, Prekop told an interviewer that the two men had recently been “very close to collaborating on an ‘old-fashioned’ sequencer record”; then Prekop’s twins were born, and his free time evaporated. The idea, though, did not. In 2019, they played a handful of shows together, recording as they went, and when the pandemic hit, they retreated to their respective studios and began emailing ideas back and forth. Compiling the fruits of those long-distance collaborations with material recorded live in 2019 and 2021, Sons Of represents a natural extension of Prekop’s solo electronic work, full of baubly tones, chirping accents, and supersaturated colors.

But there are crucial differences, too. The first becomes apparent just a little over a minute into the opening “A Ghost at Noon,” as a gargantuan kick drum comes pile-driving its way through elysian fields of synths. The rhythmic dimension of Prekop’s music has never been so prominent: He began toying with drum machines on 2020’s Comma, but every track on Sons Of is anchored by the steady thump of fat, declarative kick drums and crisp electronic hi-hats. Prekop has previously called his beat programming “rudimentary,” and despite McEntire’s prowess as a drummer, the duo doesn’t seem much interested in subtlety here; the album’s beats are proudly, almost defiantly simplistic. Pitched anywhere between a leisurely 118 bpm and a dubbed-out slow-motion crawl, the drums serve mainly an architectural function, like trellises to support the growth of their vine-like sequences. But that simplicity has a charm of its own: a mix of insistence and innocence that’s reminiscent of the very earliest house music.

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