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Arboretum Festival Foliage – Branching into Sandro Perri

By Alessandro Marcon on September 11, 2012

One of the many fine acts to grace Arboretum Festival’s debut lineup, Sandro Perri is difficult to pin down musically. Experimental and meandering, his style is at once melodic and mysterious.

He began his career as a dance music producer, experimenting with blending beats and steel guitar, but soon reinvented his sound for the live stage.  Over his career, he has produced for the likes of Owen Pallett, Stephen Malkmus and Bonjay.

His latest album, Impossible Spaces, was longlisted for this year’s Polaris Prize. Roving reporter Alessandro Marcon tracked him down as part of his ongoing quest for Arboretum interviews.

Apt613: If I were to go into a restaurant, a very able one with a not so wasted cook, and order an “Impossible Spaces”, what would I get?

Perri: Bucatini stuffed with spaghetti, but only after it’s cooked. Actually, be careful you don’t order the “impossible spices”. 

Apt613: Impossible Spaces strikes me not only as a mix of sounds/genres/rhythms, but also as an album that plays with the idea of “tightness”. The album and the songs are “tight”, but there is a looseness in the feel, like the beats or rhythms shift around inside of the tunes themselves. Was this done on a conscious level, or was it the result of spontaneous jamming?

Perri: Both! An openness to spontaneity and an attention to form is the ideal balance.

Apt613: Did a lot of editing go into the album?

Perri: Oh yeah, tons. I chip away at it until it sounds right. Sometimes I don’t know what that is until long after recording. 

Apt613: Looking at your extensive bio credits, it’s obvious you’re interested in the multifarious aspects of sound. Can you tell us what goes through your mind when you’re mixing an album?

Perri: Mostly nothing, just listening for where the magic might be and then creating a space for that to be felt more easily. Quite a bit of it is non-technical, gut level decisions. Just staring into space a lot of the time. The technical stuff is always in service of that. 

Apt613: What about when you’re mastering one?

Perri: Extremely technical, but sensitive to the idea of storytelling. The sequence needs to flow – peaks and valleys, like a story. 

Ap613: How have you found taking “Impossible Spaces” to live venues? Has it been a challenging transition from the studio to the stage?

Perri: Yeah it’s always a challenge because it’s not particularly ‘pure’ in a certain sense. But I love that challenge and I can only hope that people don’t expect to hear the record duplicated live.

Apt613: I saw on your page that you played Mutek this year as Polmo Polpo. What does this project provide you with creatively that Sandro Perri doesn’t?

Perri: No that was in 2005! It’s quite different, but it allows me to play with the space more, improvise more and just use sound in more extreme ways. 

Apt613: Did you stick around Mutek and check out any other acts? See anything impressive/mind-shattering?

Perri: Yes, in 2005, Franz(?) Pomassl absolutely blew my mind. He is a genius of electronics, a master of sound.

Apt613: What albums/artists are inspiring you these days ?

Perri: That’s too hard!

Catch Sandro Perri at the Arboretum Festival, Saturday the 15th of September.