Sandro Perri's newest record sees the avant-folk musician bringing in new aesthetics previously explored in his electronic project Off World. Utilising gorgeous guitar meanderings alongside creaking, squelching, zapping synths, he offers a twenty-plus minute track made with the aim of sounding "infinite". Verse after verse after verse, it sounds newly pretty; the second side of the record sees Perri improvise lyrics over a serene musical ballad in "Everybody's Paris", which is then reinterpreted by Destroyer's Dan Bejar and the Deadly Snakes' André Ethier. A fascinating u-turn.
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On ‘In Another Life’, experimental songwriter Sandro Perri has attempted to stretch pop music beyond its means, destroying one of its core principles -- that it’s temporal, and usually three minutes temporal -- and suggesting that it could go on forever. With three chords, several dozen verses and a few underhand musical developments, Perri considers the potential way a song may go on forever -- or, at the very least, until you can carry it on, continuing rather than repeated, in your head.
There’s a touch of irony, I suppose, that my favourite moment of the record occurs thirty seconds in: “Let me into this impossible dream”, Perri sings, immediately producing the most memorable lyric of his entire career, “and know how to not know just what that means”. Thankfully, it’s a brilliant indicator of the palpable magic that exists on “In Another Life”: the song elucidates and then mystifies, offering simple aphorisms and gorgeous, blanketing melodies before countering with skittering drums, super-subtle synth alterations and a slightly trickier turn of phrase. The song -- written entirely in verses, as if following the structural metrics of Dylan’s “Desolation Row” -- is so listenable, so infinitely rewarding, because it keeps lending ambiguity to certainty. In these cycles, it fully earns its twenty-five minute runtime.
It’s also a good way of hearing where Perri’s head is at: since taking the helm of the recording project Off World, his interest in electronic music and improvisation as grown stronger. The programmed rhythms and sterile synths of “In Another Life” are matched with gorgeous pastoral guitar lines, seemingly bridging the gap between this new project and the folksy homeliness of his solo records. It’s a wonderful match, and it’s seen a second time in “Everybody’s Paris”, where woodwinds and wandering piano meet crackling vocal samples and whirring electronic textures. On this song trilogy, Perri also considers the selfless, ego-shredding potential of improvisation, singing his own verses before inviting Dan Bejar and Andre Either to make up their own. Their voices take the record to an entirely different place, late in the game, as if suggesting this song could be sung forever beyond its limitations as an LP.
Perri never needed a shtick to be good -- he’s an incredible songwriter, and he’s already crafted experimental pop songs that move beyond traditional templates. But ‘In Another Life’ produces four gorgeous tunes that are easily -- and at least almost endlessly -- listenable. The record's title track doesn't feel like twenty minutes; it just feels good.
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