Colleen and Sam Prekop Treat MCA with Intricate Electronic Mosaics

There is something immensely interesting about artist that takes distinct shifts in their craft. This past weekend the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago welcomed two such artists: Colleen (the musical pseydeumn of Cecile Schott) and Sam Prekop. Each of these musics eschewed the musical styles they were most well known, Prekop with his jazzy indie rock with The Sea and Cake and Colleen’s delicate acoustic looping, for more abstract electronic soundscapes. These electronic efforts have been utterly interesting, traversing new ground while retaining the allure of their previous work.

I had seen Sam Prekop with his modular synth set up previously during Thalia Hall’s presentation of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. That performance unfortunately felt incomplete, not because of his talents but due to the focus was simply not directly on him. He was composing sounds for the incoming and loudly mingling crowd which left his sounds feeling like ambiance rather than the centerpiece during his time.  Here, all the attention was on him and it made for a much different and more enjoyable experience.

Prekop sat looking away from the audience, giving us only his profile as he concentrated on his very intimidating collection of wires upon wires spilling out of the multi-tiered setup. He built up a menagerie of sounds from seemingly thin air, stoically shifting wires from one position to another and adjusting the settings of the machine in front of him. The 45 minute set crafted itself it as an effervescent rhythm that held strong throughout. It was meditative and incredibly interesting to see this composition breath and become something new with ever passing minute, eventually slowing to a denouncement that was met with deserving applause.

When Cecile Schott emerged to start her set, it felt like the audience was taken by surprise. people had been walking around in the interim between sets and should stood at her table of assorted equipment patiently waiting for the crowd to return to their seats, As soon as they did she gently built twinkling sounds from opening of her latest album A flame my love, a frequency. It was a short and lovely introduction to the evening’s gripping performance.

Throughout the night, Schott prepped her equipment between every songs, something she didn’t expect to happen with her new methods. She mentioned the difficulty in her previous acoustic setups and how she hoped this entirely electronic array would ease her performances. But with two blown transformers and a looping mini keyboard that stopped looping in the middle of on of her songs, she realized that its a whole new set of trouble that would follow her. However, she was able to step over the hurdles wonderfully, adapting to the new style with ease.

This elegance was prevalent in her subtle performance, letting her soft synthetic sounds flow in ways that felt completely new to me. So much emotion was coming from these sounds, which were then amplified when Schott added her voice. Her tender vocal carried the weight of the devastating songs of A flame my love, a frequency, The album was in a response to the 2015 Paris terror attacks and features Schott delving into themes of mortality and suffering. The material is heavy incredibly dependent on each other. There is simply no better way to experience this album other than in it’s entirety and Colleen offered that up to an emotionally receptive crowd. Every sparkling note and meditative timbre was held together with Schott’s elegant calmness, leading to a satisfying end of beautiful show.

All photos by Julian Ramirez

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