Sandro Perri asks our patience. And time and again, he proves worth the wait. This week sees the release of In Another Life, his first proper lp since 2011’s visionary Impossible Spaces (that record arriving four years on the heels of his previous outing, Tiny Mirrors).
Perri asks our patience not only in the waiting between albums, but in the listening to them as well. His songwriting increasingly elliptical, it demands close attention and repeat listens. The languid, lo-fi, dusty folk of Tiny Mirrors and Plays Polmo Polpo gave way to the buoyant dimensional shifts of Impossible Spaces’ astral jazz-pop, with songs exceeding the ten-minute mark and often changing keys, tempos, and melodies without warning.
Perri has both doubled down and reigned in his approach on this latest work. The title track serves as the album’s twenty-four-minute centerpiece, followed by the triptych cycle of “Everybody’s Paris” parts 1, 2, and 3, sung respectively by Perri, The Deadly Snakes’ André Ethier, and Destroyer’s Dan Bejar, each with their own lyrical variation on Perri’s arrangements, in what he describes as a “fill-in-the-blanks questionnaire in the form of a song.”
“In Another Life,” however, is Perri’s “experiment in infinite songwriting.” The bubbling swirls of minimalist synth, astral guitar moans, and glistening flashes of electronic squeaks and shimmers cements his place as our space age Arthur Russell. The arrangement varies little as Perri takes us through a stream-of-consciousness journey into an enlightenment that feels like his own private secret. “Let me in to this impossible dream,” he sings, “And know how not to know just what that means.”
Across this expansive and cosmic piece, arguably his finest work to date, Perri muses on the possibilities of what can and cannot be: the complete divesting of one’s own ego (“Any answer, a question remains / To flourish and without expansion or gain?) and the bittersweet melancholy of romanticized nostalgia (Black, brown, red, blue, yellow, green, and white / Seen and understood in each its own right / And how freely goes a child at night / In another life?”) These existential meditations are fulfilling in their poetic ambiguity, the inherit sadness of the unknown, and the beauty that is also inherent in that unknowing. Indeed, this is how Perri walks on the moon, each step moving him up to a spiritual lightness that feels like floating. No matter the wait, how generous of him to invite us along. words / c depasquale