Thrill Jockey Records
There’s a wonderfully abstract moment in “Summer Place”— the first single from Sam Prekop’s latest electronic collection, Comma— where a quick clutch of notes, sounding something like a handful of seashells dropping onto the pavement, rips through the speakers. It doesn’t quite sync with the rhythmic shuffling of the rest track, mind you, and it’s sitting abnormally high in the mix. It sounds as if his phone was accidentally plugged into his synth-and-sequencer set-up, a text message notification barrelling its way into the smoothed-out composition as a result. While slightly jarring, hoisting this leftfield blip in the final track ultimately speaks to the playful nature of Comma, which may be Prekop’s finest solo feat yet.
Save some electronics-spiked outliers (1997’s The Fawn, 2011’s The Moonlight Butterfly), the Sea and Cake’s regal discography is, for the most part, a testament to refining one’s craft—in this case, the group’s particular brand of breezy, guitar-based indie jazz. Though Prekop’s first two LPs hewed towards the Sea and Cake formula, his solo catalogue has since become more exploratory. By the time he released Old Punch Card in 2010, Prekop had pivoted towards glitched-out, occasionally speaker- shredding textures. 2015’s The Republic ventured into more muted, pensive drone work. Both were fantastic, horizon-broadening works for the prolific Prekop. Comma, meanwhile, is his most outwardly hook-driven, hummable electronic release. Speaking with QRO earlier this year, he explained that the comparatively pop-based arrangements of Comma actually had him considering laying down some vocal lines with his patented hush, but he scrapped the idea, figuring it would “totally change the focus.” Considering the wide palette of electronic pleasures pulsing throughout the instrumental Comma, he made the right decision.
Beats play a big part in Comma’s appeal. The Republic, in particular, was big on feel and open-concept ambiance, while this latest album locks into some serious grooves. “Park Line” fades into a series of outstretched sinewaves and an Ibiza-made four-on-the-floor, while the title track batters chaotic digital timpani around a propulsive house rhythm. Later, “The New Last” folds a twitchy acid hi-hat and one particularly massive and cavernous snare clap into a deceptively polyrhythmic swirl of digital bells and other assorted oscillations. That said, Prekop also knows when to ease up on the beatscaping, whether delivering airy new age fanfare on “Circle Line” or the gossamer clouds of synth which elevate closing number “Above Our Heads.”
Though Comma marks a bold, beatific new chapter for Prekop’s solo career, sonic precedents exist in his discography. The air-pushing modular synth melodies of “Summer Place” are a pleasant throwback to the sounds Prekop brought to a pair of solo tracks grafted onto the Sea and Cake’s Two Gentleman EP (“The Sewing Machine,” in particular). The phosphorescent undulations and longing drones of “September Remember” conjure the atmospheric instrumentals Brian Eno and David Bowie slid onto the second side of Low (complementing the time the Sea and Cake capped 2003’s One Bedroom with a gentle take of Low’s classic “Sound and Vision”).
Like many other records this year, Comma was faced with COVID-19-related delays, which pushed its initial July release date into September. It was well the worth wait, though, and makes for a great late summer soundtrack to bliss out to before the equinox begins to blot out the sun.
order Comma by Sam Prekop here