133

Sam Prekop: Who's Your New Professor

By

Sign in to view read count
Chicago singer/songwriter Sam Prekop steps away from his group The Sea and Cake for Who's Your New Professor, his second solo album. Gone are the West African influences of Prekop's eponymously titled 1999 solo CD; instead, Prekop opts for an austere, even airier group sound. Fortunately the group is a great one, comprised as it is of drummer Chad Taylor, cornetist Rob Mazurek (who together make up the Chicago Underground Duo), Sticks & Stones bassist Josh Abrams, and Sea and Cake guitarist Archer Prewitt. Sea and Cake drummer John McEntire adds synthesizer, percussion, and his vaunted recording and mixing skills. The result is an album of exquisite miniatures where small gestures and offhanded melodies add up to gorgeous, buoyant pop.

"Pop in the sense that the music is jazzy, but isn't jazz; has a rock feel but doesn't rock. "Pop in the sense that it hangs on Prekop's double-tracked, buttery vocals. The track called "Something is typical: Prekop's and Prewitt's chiming, oddly-tuned electric guitars levitate over Taylor's relaxed, mid-tempo groove and Abrams' pulsing bass. Mazurek's overdubbed trumpets are all color and warmth, and then there's Prekop's vocal: conversational and seemingly composed of lyrical asides, it never tries too hard and its melody insinuates rather than overwhelms. If this is pop music, its qualities resonate over repeated listenings, not from the first play.

"Magic Step is an instrumental with a Taylor club-style breakbeat that recalls parts of last year's Chicago Underground Trio's outstanding Slon: live drums that mimic electronica. McEntire's shimmering analog synths are perfectly placed on top of jazzy acoustic guitars not unlike those of the beloved 1980s band the Feelies. "Dot Eye starts with the guitarists playing over McEntire's percussion, then morphs into a rock groove where Prewitt's grainy, soaring lead guitar answers the question "what would Neil Young and Crazy Horse sound like with a really good drummer?

"A Splendid Hollow is a brief, mantra-like vignette, all bell-like Prewitt arpeggios, and its placement before "C + F makes the latter tune seem positively ebullient, with Taylor's disco-style snare hard-slapping on the twos and fours—even though the song is in a traditional African-sounding 6/4 (so there is, perhaps, a wee bit of African influence here). When Mazurek's effected cornets and McEntire's space synths join in, it's pure epiphany: one of the great moments on the CD.

"Density may be the most purely bucolic track, with fascinating ride and snare work from Taylor; Prekop's and Prewitt's guitars hang suspended like clouds on a summer field and—to complete the metaphor—Mazurek's cornets cut through the cumulus like brilliant sunbeams.

The album's closer, "Between Outside, has dark acoustic bass from Abrams and simmering cymbal work from Taylor, slowly building tension—only to have the song fade to silence, tension unresolved. It's typically oblique in its refusal to make the big statement. It's this haunting absence—this use of absence as a palpable presence—that repeatedly pulls me back to Who's Your New Professor.

Track Listing: 1. Something 2. Magic Step 3. Dot Eye 4. Two Dedications 5. Chicago People 6. Little Bridges 7. A Splendid Hollow 8. C + F 9. Neighbor to Neighbor 10. Density 11. Between Outside

Personnel: Sam Prekop: vocals, guitar, piano; Josh Abrams: acoustic and electric bass, acoustic and electric piano; Rob Mazurek: cornet; Archer Prewitt: guitar, piano; Chad Taylor: drums; John McEntire: synthesizer, percussion

Title: Who's Your New Professor | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Thrill Jockey


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Gledalec CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Flux Reflux CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Christmas With Champian CD/LP/Track Review Christmas With Champian
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read No Answer CD/LP/Track Review No Answer
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "The Joy of Being" CD/LP/Track Review The Joy of Being
by John Sharpe
Published: April 12, 2017
Read "Circle of Chimes" CD/LP/Track Review Circle of Chimes
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 27, 2017
Read "Christmastime in New Orleans" CD/LP/Track Review Christmastime in New Orleans
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: December 11, 2016
Read "The Unknown" CD/LP/Track Review The Unknown
by Budd Kopman
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "Chapter Five" CD/LP/Track Review Chapter Five
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 28, 2017
Read "Sunset" CD/LP/Track Review Sunset
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 1, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.