Old Punch Card Old Punch Card

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Sam Prekop Sam PrekopOld Punch Card

7 / 10

Sam Prekop Old Punch Card THRILL JOCKEY

I have several albums by Sam Prekop and by The Sea & Cake at home –the first one that I bought, a delicious fusion of Chicago post-rock and bossa nova, was “Sam Prekop” (Thrill Jockey, 1999), his solo debut– and when I put one on, the first thing that I want to hear is his voice. It’s not that Sam’s voice seems to me like a prodigy of nature, and I doubt that it does to him either (it might to his lover), but it is a warm, close voice that for some reason is very familiar and pleasant. It isn’t threatening; it invites one to come closer without being afraid. For this reason, in spite of the instrumental complexity of almost all of the albums that he has been involved with as one of the main figures on the Chicago scene around John McEntire’s Soma Electronic Studios, there was always a reason to get into them without fear of being expelled at the first sign of difficulty. That voice was an umbrella, a refuge, the lit fireplace that’s waiting for you after a long, cold, rainy day. I put on “Old Punch Card” with the hope of finding that voice, but I can’t. This is an instrumental album and, besides, it’s totally electronic, except for the flash of guitar that breaks the synthetic rigidity of “November September”. I already knew that I wasn’t going to find that voice, because I had already been told that this album was another story, that Prekop was back in an experimental frame of mind, but I have to admit that a Prekop album where Prekop doesn’t sing sounds like something else. I mean, it doesn’t sound like him.What does “Old Punch Card” sound like? First off, it sounds to me like a Jim O’Rourke album at least fifteen years ago. It sounds like a veteran of post-rock applying that interest in sound research to testing new combinations in his laboratory, until one day the chemical mixture is stable and doesn’t explode. It can also sound in a way like Oval , the latest Oval, because it sounds like the point where post-rock and crunchy, abstract electronic cross paths. Prekop has in common with O’Rourke that they are from the same city –although O’Rourke doesn’t live there anymore– and that they are both easily obsessed with cubist folk and the slippery textures of granular synthesis: he released on Mego, our star does so on Thrill Jockey. And Prekop has in common with Oval that they share the same label (Thrill Jockey), and that both have wanted to enrich their own language with something apparently other: Oval wanted to add conventional instruments to their mantle of digital glitches, and Sam wanted to rid himself of precisely these tactile instruments, staying with the colder side, the mathematics. It is as if Prekop had listened to a lot of Oval and a lot of O’Rourke, but in reality, and as far as he himself has explained, what has happened is that he has been listening a lot to the music of Portuguese composer Nuno Canavarro and the material of avant-garde sound label Creel Pone, which is practically the same: Canavarro’s album “Plux Quba” was released again in 2004 by Moikai (the recording company owned by O’Rourke), and Creel Pone is the dark label of Keith Fullerton Whitman, another of the great connectors of post-rock and post-digital electronic music. Intuitively and without following any plan for in-depth immersion into avant-garde music, then, Prekop exposed himself to electro-acoustic music, free improvisation, and the works of Tod Dockstader, Oskar Sala , and Pierre Henry in the same way that the spider bit Peter Parker and made him into a half-arachnid being: by chance, but with irreversible effects.“Old Punch Card” sounds like an old electro-acoustic album, or early synthesiser music put out by Morton Subotnick , made in a carefree manner. That is its charm. It is the music of someone closed in a room with old devices—Prekop has done practically everything with a single synthesiser, digging around in its guts and keeping the sounds to put them together later, without knowing whether anything valuable would come of it. The album isn’t the reinvention of analogue synthesis—that would be better left to certain releases from the label Mordant Music, for example– nor is it a tremendous shake-up in the rich scene of drones, vintage sounds, arpeggios and other 70’s hypnagogia. It’s too naïf to be considered one of his major works. But it’s also not a minor work, because beyond the unconscious noise there are details of preciousness that captivate one little by little, requiring space, and leaving a pleasant mark. We find them in “Kneeting Needles” (almost an interlude), in “The Silhouettes,” and towards the middle of “A Places.” They are the good moments of an album that no one expected, no one had asked for, but which has earned the right to stick around. It has enough of a base to be the point of departure towards something bigger and more studied. Tom Madsen

Sam Prekop . The Silhouettes.mp3

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