Agitated Atmosphere: Sam Prekop – Old Punch Card

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Sam Prekop.

There you sit, scratching your head as you enjoy a warm cup of coffee; a column boastful of its coverage of the experimental and the oddball daring to mention Sam Prekop. As a member of The Sea and Cake, Prekop has done nothing more than keep alive the spirit of pop music as it has been handed down from its craftsmen decades ago. As a solo artist, Prekop’s solo albums have stretched that tradition without truly challenging it. A few added ingredients were added to deliver a different zest but the results were as harmless as previous Prekop concoctions.

Old Punch Card blows it up. Gone is the regime Prekop so carefully followed album to album. Traditional structure and comforting melodies have been replaced with mechanical precision, musical cunning, and forward thought. Prekop takes an acetylene torch to his old laboratory, burning down evidence of his past. Pen is met with paper and what was once a ball of inflexible material has been reformulated into expandable rubber; Prekop’s vision of pop has been born anew.

Listen to “The Silhouettes”:

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As Thrill Jockey presses forward as nurturer for avant sounds, so goes Sam Prekop. Old Punch Card has transformed the musings of traditional pop into EKGs of sound: blips, bleeps, scratches, whistles, bells, rhythms syncopated and repetitious. Prekop once was concerned with the space surrounding music; those white areas that stood still as notes swept in and out of earshot. Old Punch Card fills those one empty spaces with the musings of a mad man. The white becomes vacancies for a wealth of electronic noises — harsh, lilting, and pulsating. The mechanics with which Old Punch Card operates are outstandingly unique to Prekop’s work but as any good tinkerer can attest, one does not abandon great ideas in the pursuit of a stronger formula. Old Punch Card continues Prekop’s grand pop tradition of celebration, but where melodies were once stringent equations dedicated to preservation, Old Punch Card is the expansion of pop. Static effects replace guitar and bass; design is chipped and twisted into new formations. The album buzzes with potential and Prekop is well-equipped to deliver his new venture. For so long we were given pop as what it should have been; now we are given pop as it can be. Prekop can build it faster, stronger, and better.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist who also runs the webzine, Electronic Voice Phenomenon. He writes the Monday News Mash-Up for the KEXP Blog. You may follow him on Twitter.

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