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The Sea and Cake’s Sam Prekop takes his immersive, intimate electronic solo work to Williamstown

Sam Prekop.
Sam Prekop
Sam Prekop.

Sam Prekop is Chicago musician best known for fronting The Sea and Cake. On Saturday, he’ll perform his solo synthesizer work at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

To hear the fully produced piece, including samples of Sam Prekop's music referred to in the text below, hit the play button above.

Since 2010’s “Old Punch Card,” Prekop has released a string of solo records that embrace expansive electronic explorations over the wistful, jazz-inflected indie rock of The Sea and Cake. His most recent release is “The Sparrow,” issued last fall by Düsseldorf label TAL.

“I have a pretty extensive electronic music studio, and it's based around modular synthesis ideas," Prekop told WAMC. "But I'm also a songwriter, so that seeps in there too, you know. So it's not- I feel it's composition-based and I could almost sing on a lot of it. Although ‘The Sparrow’ is more abstract than some of the other things I've done, I guess. But I think my goal is to make, without being cloying or slight, is, I'm always looking to find beautiful sounds, basically, that are also, push the emotions in a way. And so it's a real expressive medium for me. And a lot of the pieces are sort of discoveries in my studio, that, because I'm working on just exploring sound all the time, and the more interesting things rise to the top, and then I end up refining those and changing the directions a bit. So, a lot of the composing part of it is pretty trial and error up to a point where I'm just trying things out and hoping that I'd land on happy accidents and then sort of make something out of those. And usually, it's kind of a constant give and take between breaking my own habits in a way and hoping to push it further so that I get to hear things that I haven't done before.”

Prekop says his solo work emerges from the same well as his guitar-oriented composition that powers The Sea and Cake.

“I don't read music," he said. "And so everything I've done is very invented to suit my own purposes. I'm a self taught musician, and I think- So, a lot of things we ended up becoming interested in is based on the kinds of guitar things I could do, you know, without really knowing how to play the guitar exactly. So that certain minimalism is like a natural area to explore, and that kind of repetition. And the synthesizer stuff, since I'm really intrigued with sequencers and what they do and how you can make them interesting, even though they tend to repeat loops over and over. But I'm just interested in that kind of music. And The Sea and Cake- Yeah, a lot of that stuff is based on some of those ideas. I don't know if we were necessarily consciously thinking, oh, you know, we're referencing Steve Reich, or, you know, minimalism, stuff like that, but. And African music has always been a big part of what we've been into and stuff. So yeah, it's sort of by accident. And then by design, when you hear something that works, that you didn't think could- And then you, that's part of being a band, basically. Finding your voice and capitalizing on it and learning from it and going from there.”

Prekop will take his synth rig to the Clark’s Michael Conforti Pavilion to perform alongside Burlington-based Greg Davis and Wednesday Knudsen and Kryssi Batallene at a concert presented in partnership with North Adams’ Belltower Records.

“It's a pretty crazy looking setup, lots of wires and blinking lights going off and stuff," he told WAMC. "It'll be one long piece. I have arranged somewhat, and there's certain zones that I'll be getting to as the show progresses, but it's also very in the moment. So there'll be on the spot sort of composing. And, I mean, it's improvising in a way, but very deliberately. So it's not- Form wise, it's very related to the first side of ‘The Sparrow.’ So it'll be like a long piece with movements in it, basically. I guess it's more rhythmic based than some of the records in a way. And the origins of the piece started in November. I was able to open for Suzanne Ciani, who's a modular synth pioneer, basically. And so I wrote a special piece for that show. And I'm still working within that piece, basically.”

Sam Prekop’s concert at the Clark with Greg Davis and more – which kicks off the museum’s Concerts at the Conforti series – starts at 7.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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