October 18, 2011
Toronto-based musician Sandro Perri has an eclectic background, having recorded music ranging from ambient electronica to folk rock. He got his start under the pseudonym Polmo Polpo, earning positive reviews for The Science of Breath (2002) and Like Hearts Swelling (2003). While these releases were electronic in nature, Perri worked frequently with all kinds of Toronto-area groups, playing lap-steel guitar for Detective Kalita and the Great Lake Swimmers, among others, before shifting to a more folk-based sound for his own solo work.
Impossible Spaces, the second full-length LP Perri has released under his own name, is a varied work with plenty to offer, traversing the spectrum from groovy electro-lounge to folksy indie and jazzy guitar improvisation with remarkable ease. The music moves fluidly between styles and genres, allowing even the three songs that pass the seven-minute mark to remain vital and exciting for their full run time. "Changes," the first song on the album and the first of these multi-minute epics, sets the tone beautifully with a laid-back organ and bass groove humming beneath Perri's warm, unhurried vocals. Everything circles and builds around a low, pounding drumbeat. This in turn morphs seamlessly into an extended instrumental jam complete with bubbling synthesizers and noodling guitar lines.
The album continues in this vein, flexing its muscles in a thoroughly pleasant space somewhere between Herbie Hancock and the Dirty Projectors. On "Love and Light," Perri flirts with bossa nova, matching a lightly jazzy drumbeat with percussive scatting and distinctly Brazilian guitar flourishes. Meanwhile, "Futureactive Kid (Part I)" is a gem of sparse, sinister folk, complete with a David Lynch-y bass clarinet and a pair of psychedelic guitar solos. A flute makes a surprisingly welcome appearance on a few of the songs, evoking not just jazz, but also the early days of krautrock, when groups like Kraftwerk similarly employed the instrument alongside modern electronics and engaging grooves. These subtle genre excursions are frequent, but everything fits easily into the puzzle of Impossible Spaces, with Perri maintaining a mood of comfort, warmth, and reflection through the entirety of the record.
Despite the music's pleasant nature, there is also an underlying sense of excitement and exploration. Constantly, the songs straddle the line between improvisation and composition, carefully unraveling as they take the listener on a journey. "Wolfman," the album's centerpiece, serves as a great example of this, not to mention a wonderful showcase for Perri's eclecticism. It is the catchiest tune, as well as the longest, clocking in at over ten minutes. The lyrics, like most on the album, are poetic and evocative, conjuring strange images and reflective feelings. "I jumped right in, you covered me like a lotion/Yesterday I was sure I was losing my skin," he croons calmly. While the images are intriguing, the music is what really takes the listener away, shifting imaginatively beneath Perri's vocals. In the beginning, the song builds around intertwining guitars straight out of a 1970s classic rock tune. When the chorus arrives, Perri introduces a bassy syntheziser, which then dutifully joins the guitars for the second verse. Instruments flow in and out as the song washes over the listener, until suddenly, five minutes in, the musicians build a whole new groove around a stabbing saxophone part and a catchy synth line. They veer off into folksy, flute-laden territory before coming all the way back to the chorus. To Perri's immense credit, the ten minutes fly by effortlessly. Best of all, his melodies match the music's variety, with "Wolfman" featuring several distinct segments juxtaposed like musical vignettes.
"Impossible Spaces" provides the final come-down with a very different kind of beauty. The delicate title track is the most sparsely arranged on the album and might be the most immediately accessible. However, even a tune as simple as this is painted with occasional synthesizers and horns in Perri's world. Indeed, it is, above all, these complex arrangements that make Impossible Spaces an immensely entertaining album. Multiple listens are treated with new pleasures, and the swirling, ever-evolving instrumentation prevents the songs from becoming stale, revealing hidden intricacies with every play. What begins as a pleasantly jazzy indie-folk record soon proves to have a deeper musical reward, and Impossible Spaces emerges as a strong and cohesive album.
Favorite Tracks: "Changes," "Futureactive Kid (Part I)," "Wolfman"
Here To Submit Your CD For Review
Tomi Mendel is an obsessive lover of music and movies and a co-founder of Orchestral Colour Records. Currently living in Los Angeles, he enjoys spending his free time reading, writing, learning, watching movies and memorizing useless facts about music history.