A few years ago Sea and Cake
front man Sam Prekop
developed an obsession with modular synthesizers, and last year he released Old Punch Card
, an album of wonderfully abstract and often buoyant electronic music that departed dramatically from the airy melodies and cool grooves of his main band. Prekop also used a modular synth to create foundations for the supercatchy tunes on the Sea and Cake's terrific new album, Runner
(Thrill Jockey). Not much of the machine's output ended up on the record—the mesmerizing synth that introduces "Harps
" keeps pulsing through the song even after the guitars and rhythm section kick in, and "Neighbors and Township" includes a knotty synth solo. For the most part, Runner
sticks to the band's formula, though "The Invitations," which is drumless for its first section, feels more ethereal and unmoored than their usual graceful sound. Other tweaks, such as the rhythmic brio of "Skyscraper" and Prekop's tangled guitar solo on "New Patterns," help keep the music sounding fresh and dynamic. —Peter Margasak Matthew Friedberger opens.