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Sandro Perri - Plays Polmo Polpo

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Artist: Sandro Perri

Album: Plays Polmo Polpo

Label: Constellation

Review date: Apr. 26, 2007


Sandro Perri's output under the Polmo Polpo moniker has a curious relationship to current experimental music. His inspirations seem largely in step with his peers, but his take is quite different. On 2003's fantastic Like Hearts Swelling, Polmo Polpo maestro Perri submerged dance beats, jazz guitar, and cello under layers of radio static and drone. The result is a dense soup of melody and texture that ebbs and shifts over the course of the tremendously enjoyable record. It could fit somewhere along a lineage of drone and long-form ambient music that runs from Windy and Carl's spaced-out guitar pieces through the late '90s, Christian Fennesz, and Tim Hecker most recently except for how different it sounds.

In the first half of the '00s while the indie crowd was rediscovering its hip joints and the outsider disco of Arthur Russell, Perri was (as James Murphy would exclaim "Losing My Edge"-style) 'there.' Indeed, there is a sense in which the entire DFA project seems cast in the mold of Russell's home-spun and brilliant dance output. But before the DFA remixed "Springfield," Polmo Polpo's 2005 release "Kiss Me Again and Again" riffed on the classic Russell-produced Dinosaur L track "Kiss Me Again," turning it into a 21-minute epic of droning disco. I have heard nothing more than marginally similar in its synthesis of the seemingly contradictory ideologies of drone abstraction and dance music grounded in a four-on-the-floor beat.

The songs on Plays Polmo Polpo take Perri's drone compositions as their foundations but foreground the human players. Many of the tracks are re-workings of the Like Hearts Swelling tracks - using anywhere from nine musicians to solo Perri - and all recorded live. The effect is a looser feel than the earlier records. "Dreaming" takes the reverbed slide guitar melodies from "Dreaming (Again)" off of Constellation's Song of the Silent Land comp, and turns the song into a folk-tinged piece for guitar and voice that sounds pleasantly tossed-off. "Romeo Heart," "Requiem for a Fox" and "Sky Histoire" unearth the melodies and structures buried under the electronic haze of their earlier incarnations with arrangements for horns, piano, ebow'd guitar and euphonium.

The record lacks the more meticulous composition and arrangement of his early output, music that relied on gradual shifts in timbre and structure created by the precise management of many layers of sound. Rather, it feels like his earlier music coming apart at the seams. The instrumentation strewn across the length of each song is haphazard, and I mean that as a compliment.

Plays Polmo Polpo doesn't call to mind any particular derivation and goes further than even "Kiss Me Again and Again" in displaying a range beyond the aforementioned contemporaries. All this considered, that the record doesn't feel like a project of hybridization or fusion is what truly makes it singular.

By Brandon Kreitler

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