SAM PREKOP A charter member of Team Zissou.
Archer Prewitt

AS THE DRIVING FORCE (and voice) for Chicago-based avant-jazz-pop crew the Sea and Cake, Sam Prekop forged new ground in experimentalism at a decent clip over the last 20 years. On his solo releases—beginning with 1999's self-titled LP, and perhaps most widely praised on 2005's Who's Your New Professor—Prekop has unabashedly kicked aside the proverbial envelope.

So the side-eyed skepticism surrounding his newest full-length of modular synthesizer compositions, The Republic, seems an interesting point of contention for his longtime admirers. As Prekop points out, he's been using modular synth as a compositional tool since Sea and Cake's first record in 1994.

"It's not been some crazy leap into a different direction," he explains. "I know solo electronic records are quite a bit different sounding than the Sea and Cake records, but I think if anyone were really familiar, they would probably be able to link up that the same person is working on the two things."

The first half of The Republic was originally written for a score to a video installation project of the same name by David Hartt, which was shown at the David Nolan gallery in New York. The music is full of ambient tones meticulously designed via a time-consuming artistic process of patching different oscillators, limiters, sequencers, and filters together. Prekop took full liberty to flesh out the back half of the album as a contrasting instrumental statement.

"Some of the challenges were that there was no film to attach it to on the second half," says Prekop. "These had to stand alone in a different way, which was more work, strangely."

The result is an oddly melodic collection of space-synth instrumentals, sometimes coiling out from white-noise patchworks—Kubrickian nightmare noises for wide-eyed contemplation or navel-gazing meditation.

"There's no way to pretend that I haven't done all this other [more pop-oriented] work," Prekop says. "I think it causes trouble for some listeners. Some serious experimental people might be like, 'Oh, the guy from Sea and Cake... not interested.' And then some of the hardcore Sea and Cake fans are like, 'What the hell is this?' But I can't worry about that."