The Sea and the Cake mainman Sam Prekop’s latest solo project Old Punch Card is filled with provocative ideas, providing considerable food for thought. As the press materials state, this undertaking follows in the footsteps of seminal works of electronic composition from the 50's and 60's. Prekop limits himself to an analogue synthesizer component—the modulator—to create the grand bulk of the sounds voiced; this is a relatively simple piece of technology that functions best generating diverse noises though it can spin out a single melodic line as well.
Most of Old Punch Card is devoted to a fulsome display of pure sound-for-sound’s-sake. The affects are comparable to what you’d get by a quick scanning of short wave radio frequencies at times, or doing rapid, multiple needle drops on a sound effects record. Every now and then, Prekop will spool out short segments of tune, sometimes repeating them, while at others they suddenly appear out of nowhere and disappear just as precipitously.
To many ears Old Punch Card will not register as music all. And yet, when a skein of apparently random sounds gets underlined by a slow wash of melody their musical import is revealed. While lovely, uncomplicated tunes may not seem to qualify as “songs,” they’re undeniably musical and wind up calling into question the necessity for framing music as song per se.
Very much like the earliest pioneers of electronic music—Xenakis, Subotnick, etc.—Prekop’s work here challenges us to take a fresh look at what music is and what it could be.
Old Punch Card may not be something you’d go back to for pure pleasure but it’s a valuable polemical statement. [Thrill Jockey]
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