Sam Prekop: The Republic

The second instrumental adventure in the land of modular synthesizer from the golden voice of the Sea and Cake.

Sam Prekop

The Republic

Label: Thrill Jockey
US Release Date: 2015-02-24
UK Release Date: 2015-02-23
Label Website
Artist Website

"For me, the cat is symbolic of the concept of 'the state', of this kind of surveillance mechanism; something that doesn't blink."

That quote is from visual artist David Hartt, speaking about one of the images from his recent video installation, The Republic, which was featured at the David Nolan Gallery in New York in the early spring of 2014. The cat photograph he speaks of is the same one that graces the cover of Sam Prekop's latest solo album, which shares its name with Hartt's installation. And here you thought Prekop might simply be appealing to people's endless appetite for cat pictures.

Prekop conceived the first half of The Republic -- "The Republic" parts one through nine -- as the score for Hartt's work. Taking its cue from proposed revitalization plans for Detroit and Athens, Greece, that Greek urban planner Constantinos Doxiadis came up with following World War II, The Republic combines footage that Hartt took in both cities to "create a fictional hybrid city-state." Without being able to view the installation along with it, the listener has to do the heavy lifting with their imagination to guess how the two might have functioned symbiotically. Even removed from the work it was designed to accompany, however, The Republic is still an intriguing sequence of all-instrumental music on its own.

In between the subterranean static that opens "The Republic 1" and the descending tones of "The Republic 9", side A is continuously in flux, restless and wary of confinement. "The Republic 5" buzzes in like a swarm of cicadas before cutting off abruptly in the middle and drifting out in a completely different mode, whizzing and clanging like a sci-fi machine shop. Some of the sections hold up fine on their own ("The Republic 3"), while others are more dependent on what surrounds them ("The Republic 7"), typically depending on their length and complexity. Each is an intriguing piece of a whole, but, at times, the knowledge that there is a visual context out there can lead to a nagging feeling that the full experience is being missed.

Not so for the other half of The Republic, which kicks off with "Weather Vane", nothing short of a dance floor anthem by the typically reposed standards of Prekop's main band, The Sea and Cake. Both sides of The Republic are a continuation of Prekop's experimentation with a modular synthesizer that he has painstakingly pieced together himself. He diverged on to this path in 2010 with his last solo album, Old Punch Card. It was a pronounced departure from his norm. Prekop's two solo albums before Old Punch Card, Sam Prekop in 1999 and Who's Your New Professor in 2005, could both easily be mistaken for The Sea and Cake albums. John McEntire's dexterous drumming might have been absent from those Prekop records, but that was the era where The Sea and Cake's mellow got even mellower (Oui and One Bedroom), before their third-act reinvigoration, so the difference was not as pronounced as it might have been.

Obviously, as of late there is no mistaking the difference. The sparking wires and splintered edges of Old Punch Card have largely been smothered and sanded, but "Ghost" and "Music in Pairs" carry over some of that record's ADD ambience. The Republic may not completely throw caution to the wind, but there is still an audible joyful liberation from structure and expectation in "Invisible" and "A Geometric". Prekop's touch brings warmth to pulsating Vangelis-style environments, as if reimagining the soundtrack to a Blade Runner set in a future where things are generally okay. On "Weather Vane", his conception of this conflated, half-dreamed Republic could hardly sound more optimistic. As much as consistency has forever been The Sea and Cake's stock in trade, doing away with it has served Prekop's own progression well.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.