Twenty years from now, Sam Prekop's name will probably be forgotten by all but a handful of experimental pop-rock devotees, but here and now, he's a kind of hero. With his primary outlet, The Sea And Cake, Prekop has brought a touch of avant-garde to easy listening and vice versa, fusing Afro-Cuban, cool jazz, and a sort of numb European soul. His 1999 solo debut was more overtly jazzy and semi-shrill, but the follow-up, Who's Your New Professor, goes the mellow route, running light percussion and muted horns under and around Prekop's whispery voice and delicate guitar. Songs like "Dot Eye" and "Two Dedications" ride the vibrations of Prekop's affectedly hushed vocals, hanging in the air like an unspoken thought. Even the instrumental "Magic Step" contains echoes of Prekop's dissolute presence, all shabby-suave and nonchalantly gifted. Listen casually, and Who's Your New Professor hangs back against the wall, likeably undemanding. Listen close, and the album's elegant patterns become actively entrancing.
Adam Pierce's playfully adventurous collective Mice Parade shares Prekop's affection for polyrhythms and tropical breezes. Formerly an instrumental band active in the post-rock and glitch-pop scenes, Mice Parade has evolved into a more conventional band with vocals, without losing the complex, partly improvised song structures. The new Bem-Vinda Vontade continues the Brasilia bent of last year's Obrigado Saudade, enjoying the freedom of stumbling beats and washes of warm sound. The seven-minute "Nights Wave" typifies the record, with its Tortoise-like vibes, colliding guitars, off-kilter time signature, and the childlike vocals of Japanese pop star Ikuko Harada. The song even contains a line that could double as Mice Parade's slogan: "As you know / We could've mixed up lots of things / And it would've worked out fine." But though Pierce may have faith in musical spontaneity, it's not too hard to hear the design in his fruitful commingling of worldbeat and indie-rock. The rippling piano, throaty chants, waspy synths, and Spanish folk guitar of "Waterslide" almost serve as a musical affirmation of cultural globalization, and the idea that everyone on earth is connected to everyone else by a thick web of sound.