Recording information: Chicago (2014).
The gently experimental nature of Sam Prekop's lengthy discography has always led to some interesting twists in sound, but even those well versed in his adventurous catalog weren't expecting the extreme shift that happened with 2010 solo album Old Punch Card. With that album, gone were the mellow post-rock lingerings and organic bossa nova-flavored tunes of his main band, the Sea and Cake, or even his two solo albums that preceded it, that style replaced instead with completely instrumental electronic soundscapes. Using synthesizers instead of traditional indie instrumentation, Prekop's compositional voice still found a similar playful curiosity, but diving completely into a method of expression he'd only hinted at on previous releases. Five years later, The Republic expands on Prekop's experiments with electronics and modular synthesis. The first nine tracks, titled "The Republic 1" through "The Republic 9," were composed as the score for a show of the same name by video installation artist David Hartt. These more drifting tunes glow with a soft excitement all the same. "The Republic 1" slowly forms out of a low amp hum and subtle static, spilling out into fluttering melodies like ice melting on an early spring day. Elsewhere on these mostly brief interludes, synthesizers mimic owl hoots and hop through octaves like lazy frogs. There are moments throughout these pieces that bring to mind the more relaxed side of early Krautrock pioneer Hans-Joachim Roedelius as well as the blurry focus and beatless sound worlds of lesser-known electronic artist Aki Tsuyuko. With "Weather Vane," the album's second half begins, employing some of the same patches Prekop explored earlier but bringing in driving drum machine rhythms and stabbing melodic arpeggios for something decidedly more pop-sounding. There are precise, hypnotic sequences on "The Loom" and more ambient textures that wrap around each other on tracks like "Ghost" and the cold wash of "Invisible." Taken as a whole, The Republic is a heady yet enjoyable collection of electronic sounds that retains the graceful beauty Prekop has breathed into all of his creations, just with a slightly different approach. ~ Fred Thomas