I've loved Sam Prekop since his days with Shrimp Boat, though I've felt things were beginning to get stale as of the last couple of Sea & Cake records. His vocal delivery had become rote and his songs too often evoking the same relaxed mood over and over. So I was both relieved and curious to hear he'd thrown a huge curveball with his third solo album by doing an all-synth, all-instrumental record. Seeing as I'm actually more into all-synth, all-instrumental records these days than I am songwriters, I was maybe even more curious than you might think.
In all Prekop acquits himself well in this new style, though the record nevertheless lacks that something special. The album skips between nice melodies and more abstract, atonal sections—usually in the space of one song. I was drawn more to the former than the latter, so Old Punch Card became a frustrating listen—I couldn't skip tracks to get to the ones I liked. Obviously Prekop intended it that way; if he wanted to make a straight-up melodic instrumental album, he would have done so. The more abstract parts are a necessary part of his vision. But if you keep up with the other releases on Thrill Jockey, you've probably heard other artists who do this sort of thing just as well, or better. Ultimately this is a record I'll file into my "writing" playlist (all instrumental tracks), where I won't skip it if it shuffles on; but neither will I feel an urge to single this record out among the rest of my iTunes library.
- Sam Prekop: A Places