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Concerning the Chicago art scene, Sam Prekop and John McEntire aren’t just longtime purveyors. They’re synonymous. They’re on the company masthead. Their unassuming visages are carved into the institution’s Mount Rushmore. The duo’s work as one half of legends The Sea and Cake brought bossanova influences to post-rock and still sounds like nothing else of its kind. McEntire’s resume as producer alone graces virtually every corner of indie rockdom from the past couple decades, and his drumming chops can be found on seminal works from several projects you may have heard of, such as Tortoise or The Red Krayola. These modest titans embarked on a tour of Europe in 2019 in which the two brought a modular synthesizer workspace to improvise entire sets. Those live, unpredictable jams proved worthy of more than just a one-time-only experience, warranting a more formal document. Sons Of is the fruits of their labor from that era.
“A Ghost at Noon” starts with an off-kilter, pillowy sequencer akin to the title track from Prekop’s Comma album. Prekop’s forays into synthesized music crept in as early as The Sea and Cake’s 1997 release The Fawn, a mere peppering of artificial textures compared to now. What once seemed a passing curiosity with the medium quickly grew to dominate his discography, as his solo efforts since 2010’s Old Punch Card have consisted purely of electronic compositions. His earned assuredness, especially paired with McEntire, can be felt in the steady four-on-the-floor march of “Ghost”, with bustling brushed drum aftershocks, trading diminishing blows between left and right speaker channels. A staticky dialup internet racket brings the track to a musique concrète ending.
“Crossing at the Shallow” opens with an icy synth tone so nostalgic and mired to the ‘90s that its timbre could convincingly pass as at first as a Lone cut, complete with a classic, simple bum-tiss-bum-tiss percussive support. A frantic, dancing lead flits across registers, frequencies, and durations; searching not for harmony nor dissonance, instead, desperately calibrating itself against the backdrop of a spooky, gentle cascade. “Ascending By Night” finds the two at their purest experimental base. The clear freewheeling piece of the bunch, its sole discernible motif a warbling, eerie note that cuts in and out at random. Movements bleed into one another with less motive than the other three numbers. Still, each section here carries the same pensive, wide-eyed weight.
“A Yellow Robe”, the mammoth centerpiece at over 20 minutes, offers the very best of Prekop and McEntire’s proclivities. Garnished with the ringing of old-fashioned alarm clocks, the return of ominous, alien pulsations first heard in “A Ghost at Noon”, and oddly satisfying repetitions of what sounds to be ping pong balls bouncing down a plastic chute are just some of the audio library selections featured in this wondrous trek. It’s the kitchen sink approach, spread out economically and intuitively over so much time, with each branch feeding into the next sensibly. With eight minutes of “Robe” remaining, Sons Of hits peak euphoria. A tide of four heavenly notes washes in, resonating; a beacon of bliss on loop, melting into an aural Eden.
So much electronic music occupying spaces of ambience and house works on a success scale determined by its ability to last. Sons Of bears the collaborative spirit ideal that locks into a series of sweet spots. Each crowning moment might as well last for the rest of time without protest.
You may purchase the album here.
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