Off World: 1

Toronto-based Sandro Perri has been involved in a number of diverse and idiosyncratic projects during his lengthy tenure with Constellation, among them Polmo Polpo and Glissandro 70 (he's also issued vocal-based material under his birth name). None, however, has probably sounded as weird as his latest, Off World, even if he's quick to dispel any notion that it's a solo endeavour; 1 is, after all, credited to Off World, not Perri alone.

For this largely studio-based collaborative project, Perri's electronics, guitar, harpsichord, harmonica, and piano were augmented by electronics (Drew Brown, Andrew Zukerman, Susumu Mukai), drum machines (MJ Silver, Susumu Mukai), banjo (Mike Smith), and viola/violin (Jesse Zubot). If the music feels fresh, it might have something to do with the fact that its core was generated almost entirely over a two-day session, during which base material produced with synthesizers (EMS Synthi, Syntorchestra, Prophet 5, Buchla Music Easel) was later expanded upon using the other aforementioned sounds.

As alien as the material in one sense is, it also presents a world that's comforting as opposed to alienating, electronics deployed in this case invitingly and with warmth. On the opener “Primitive Streak,” the cross-talk between the EMS Synthi and Prophet 5 instantly establishes Off World's off-kilter persona, especially when the synthesizers' R2D2-like expressions make it seem as if they are truly chattering. The short “No Host” features Syntorchestra only, with a solo Perri coaxing all manner of mechanoid flutter from the device, whereas “Wonder Farm” pushes the album's weirdness quotient to the furthest degree by combining some mutant form of sleepy Hawaiian music with drunken snares and squawking synthesizers.

With its synth flares and piano flourishes undergirded by a simple drum machine pattern, the amoebic universe conjured within “Choral Hatch” sounds very much like the kind of thing Eno was creating around the time of Another Green World (the controlled, percussive-driven howl of “Extraction,” on the other hand, wouldn't sound out of place on Nerve Net); in both cases strange worlds are presented yet a strangeness to which one is able to adapt quickly and with little difficulty. That's not to suggest that 1 is the sound of Perri and company deliberately aping Eno but more to suggest that in this instance their particular approaches overlap—even if a gap of forty years separates the two.

At a modest thirty-five minutes, 1 is obviously free of bloat. Yet it doesn't feel incomplete; enough material has been presented for the listener to form a satisfying impression of Off World's identity and better yet welcome the prospect of a follow-up, which apparently will transpire in due course as three volumes have been planned for release.

August 2016