Music fans — read bloggers/reviewers — often complain that the art of collection and creative expression are being forced out by the overpopulation of accessibility. The playing field is leveled and now everyone can hear any song, any record, and borrow from any influence at the speed of fiber optics.
In the past, hunting down records took time and finding influences that could shape a sound was like choosing a profession in the 60’s. You had one chance, spent years fine tuning your efforts and stayed the course, for better or for worse. Today, the internet has all but altered the definition of once treasured terms like authenticity and integrity and fans care less and less about the performance and the process. Collagen lip implants are more of a crime that blatantly ripping off iconic bands, if it results in a single you can throw on a party playlist.
That’s why the compositions that multi-instrumentalist and borderline musical genius Sandro Perri creates on his latest LP, Impossible Spaces, are more than simply jaw dropping and immensely enjoyable. The songs are a lifeboat in the middle of a seemingly endless ocean of music, trying to preserve not only what we love about music, but what we love about the individualism of art.
Like any successful experiment, Perri’s sounds feel like they were built and tested in a vacuum, immune to impurities and external influence. His skillful touch results in a meticulous combination of textures and emotion that still have the space to grow and the freedom to evolve. Without knowing Perri or how he built these songs over the last four years, one is left to assume each note is obsessed upon and reworked until they are just right. Those complex schematics show that Perri’s talent lies not just in finding the sound that fits to complete his puzzles, but in making calculated decisions come off as joyous and whimsical moments of levity. His brief tip of the cap to Bowie on “Changes”, casually adding “c-c-could” halfway through the sprawling seven minute affair, is the perfect moment of succinct pop lifts up the velvet rope and grants us entry into the improve heavy, electronic noise progression.
It’s easy to focus on Perri’s experimental nature; Perri picks at the seams, gently unraveling the fabric into chaos on the opening number and lets electronic noises dart across your headphones on “Love & Light”, but Perri is just as successful when he strips back the layers and moves on a more well trafficked path. “Futureactive Kid (Part I)” highlights a more soulful delivery and the melody is enhanced by blasts of noise and spacey ascents, not augmented by them. The touching title track could survive with just the simple, pleasant picks, gentle percussion and heartfelt sentiment but expands to full flower bloom with the addition of horns, warped electronic textures and gentle swell to conclude the tribute to a deceased friend.
Impossible Spaces is a fitting title for this record. The sounds he combines — reeds, horns, percussion, programming — shouldn’t fit together so nicely, and such an adventurous compositions shouldn’t be so infectious and poppy. “Wolfman”, the album standout (and longest track at over 10-minutes), is at times weightless and sounds effortless and also intricate and cerebral, but really the true impossibility of this project is that Perri has found a space that lets him create and collaborate (the talents players on this record are vital to the end results) outside of public scrutiny and influence. Impossible Spaces is a truly unique statement in an era where “been there done that” and the oversaturation of anything fresh are instantaneous and, unfortunately, inevitable certainties.
It’s probably early (and ironic considering today is the announcement of the 2011 Polaris Prize), but in terms scope, artistic significance and sheer magnitude of talent, Sandro Perri has set the bar high. Who in Canada is willing to accept the challenge of hurdling over it?