MONM 2011 Day 9: Sandro Perri’s Impossible Spaces

Sandro Perri – Impossible Spaces (2011, Constellation)

There’s something of a kinship between Perri’s Impossible Spaces and Destroyer’s Kaputt. Spaces isn’t anywhere near as glossy (although it’s not exactly raw, either), and the lack of soaring ’80s sax solos also means it’s less likely to be accused of intentional kitsch, but both of them are based to a large degree on the potential for experimental songwriting within the confines of easy listening. For Destroyer, it was about sneaking an artfully askew personality into yacht-rock arrangements. For Perri, it’s light jazz, bossa nova and singer-songwriter fare, all of which get twisted and re-shaped into something much more interesting than any of those tags imply.

Opener “Changes” is a clear standout in an album that doesn’t lack for quality songs. One of three songs on Impossible Spaces to clock in at over seven minutes, it begins with a suitably jazzy organ and rubbery bass, while drummer Dan Gaucher (whose past projects include Calgary’s Shecky Forme, plus jazzier outfits Rabnett 5 and Doppler (d)effect) shuffles restlessly in the background, not so much propelling the track as poking at it. At least until the song switches gears at the midway point, settling into a tastefully swoon-worthy three-minute instrumental groove.

“Wolfman” also takes advantage of its length, using its 10 minutes to meander through a landscape of dissonant guitars, saw-toothed synths and a start-stop sense of lurching momentum. It’d feel like stream-of-consciousness songwriting if it didn’t somehow slot together so well.

Maybe the best example of the album’s easy listening oddness comes at the end of “Futureactive Kid (Part 2).” The track is only two minutes long, and yet it still manages to move from a decadent jazz-flute intro to an uncomfortably fuzzy guitar solo that fades out before you’ve even realized it’s started. That callous disregard for listener expectations is normal for an act on the Constellation roster, but when you mix it with Perri’s incontrovertible pop instincts, the result is beautifully disorienting.

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