Sandro Perri is a restlessly creative spirit, the sort of impossible to pigeonhole figure whose numerous and varied projects bear little resemblance to one another. The Toronto musician previously mined a hypnotic techno groove as Polmo Polpo, and subsequently explored African influences on the funky, experimental Glissandro 70. And Perri has also played as a member of Canadian Americana outfit Great Lake Swimmers. Having since begun releasing solo material under his own name in 2007, Perri hasn’t given up on hypnotic or funky sounds. In fact, for a relatively laid-back indie singer-songwriter, the man is exceptionally skilled at creating warm, deep and pulsing grooves. That funky undercurrent carries through the bulk of Perri’s new album on Constellation, Impossible Spaces, meeting up with tropical breezes in certain spaces and blissful ethereality in others.
While you can probably pick up on any number of Perri’s other projects if you squint really hard while listening to Impossible Spaces, he’s given himself more to the simple idea of more straightforward pop songwriting. “Straightforward” is still a relative term when discussing Perri, however, as the accessibility of the material on the album does not mean that he’s lost any of his adventurousness. For a performer whose music is often seemingly so easy and inviting, there’s often quite a bit going on within his songs, and one is likely to get ecstatically lost within the music’s overlapping layers after initially being pulled in by its gentle hooks. A particularly powerful example of this kind of catchy-meets-complex approach can be found within “Changes,” the outstanding leadoff track. Its upbeat bassline, rich organ and jazzy rhythms emit the warmth and fullness of a classic ’70s pop record a la Fleetwood Mac or Paul Simon. And Perri’s own softly sweet voice blends with saxophone and riffing guitar, serving only to enhance this gently familiar mixture. But mid-way through the seven and a half minute song, Perri’s band switches up to a mellow, layered funk session, one that slowly but steadily lifts off into space.
Elsewhere, Perri simplifies his approach, though even his most “ordinary” songs are packed with intriguing ideas from front to back. The Latin jazz-tinged “Love & Light” is simply gorgeous, a melancholy folk-pop song that carries a heavy dose of Antonio Carlos Jobim in its head-nodding beauty. The title track has a similarly breezy quality, but with an even simpler arrangement, as little more than Perri’s own comforting vocals and gently finger-picked guitar guide the track to a horn-laden close. The sprawling, 10-minute “Wolfman,” however, gradually unfolds over its lengthy span, slowly introducing more and more dramatic shifts, from classic rock guitar squeals to synth throbs, brass and woodwind. It’s a stunning, hypnotic adventure in melody, but still maintains that easy, free-flowing feel in which the album began.
To craft an album as complex and carefully arranged as Impossible Spaces and make it sound this effortless is no mean feat. While it is on the whole a gentle creation, its 37 minutes are consistently engaging, and its seven tracks giving way to one “Eureka!” moment after another. It’s the kind of masterful creation that lends itself to repeat immersion, each new aural dive a refreshing and rejuvenating experience.
Stream: Sandro Perri – “Changes”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.