Album Reviews : Off World – ‘3’ : Illuminating soundscapes and sonic free flow from the illustrious Canadian collective.

Sandro Perri seems like one of those quietly busy people. A touch stone within the Canadian contemporary scene, the guitarist, producer and pioneer of ‘infinite song-writing’ has over the last decade gifted us three solo albums that should be on any muso’s shelves. That trio of releases on Constellation, ‘Impossible Spaces’, ‘Another Life’ and ‘Soft Landing’, stand as definitive outsider soft-rock statements. But alongside the songwriter Perri has also convened the intricate and illuminating electronic collective Off World, featuring a rolling cast from Toronto and beyond’s experimental scene.

The Off World project is two albums into its journey of electronic investigation, volumes ‘1’ and ‘2’ distinguishing themselves with their genreless, slow-jam, retro-tech personality. Now comes the final part of their planned trilogy, called, ingeniously, ‘3’ and released once again through Perri’s long standing hosts Constellation. This time around improv savvy Nicole Rampersaud (trumpet) and Martin Arnold (guitar) join the Off World regulars, including Susumu Mukai (from Vanishing Twin) and producer Drew Brown, to inject even more unpredictability into the collective’s closing act. It seems the controls are set for a free-flowing, jazz induced exploration as Off World enter their last spin.

The introduction to the album comes with Orientation, a gentle easing in via Jesse Zubot’s minimal, multi-toned violin phraseology and Perri’s delicate piano support. There’s a tension though, as Zubot persists in negotiating an awkward scale, burbling synths and shadowy electronics seep into the overall picture. This match might seem incongruous but somehow the cycle of electro-acoustic tussling resolves with an interchange of treatments and discordance. With Orientation complete, it’s clear to continue onward into ‘3’ with a suitably open mind.

The album is structured sonically around three long form pieces each featuring a focal improvising instrument. The addictive down beat stomp of Impulse Controller provides Rampersaud with a solid platform to present a timbre-rich monologue. Her trumpet dialogue is singular and sensational here, a staggering range of wrenching notes, stutters, tune fragments and micro-flurries cutting through the densely meshed electronica. The layering intensifies as the parts react to one another to create a one-off event where ‘On The Corner’ Miles meets ‘Swordfishtrombones’ Waits alongside a ‘Maxinquaye’ Tricky finding those LFO ‘Frequencies’. You have just got to be there.

It might have been tempting for such a strong dynamic to take hold and get repeated as the third volume from Off World unwinds but this collective was not set up to take the easy option. Ludic Loop is anything but playful as it pitches into the darkness of a grand slow core processional. Over a reverential unwavering snare-to-timpani beat and string loop circling with a Basinski like presence, Martin Arnold’s guitar holds the centre. From its alien scream entry, through a twist of wah-wah and sustain, it searches for the melody line with an Al Di Meola clarity plus Ambarchi expansionism before quietly dying.

That burgeoning dystopian soundtrack feel plays out powerfully to the close of ‘3’ with the boundless, droning Empasse. Reminiscent of Davachi’s hypnotic gravitas, the piece revolves around a doomy ceremonial bass pattern that creaks and yearns but resists diversion. Jesse Zubot’s incisive string details provide relief, immaculately placed they whistle and weep, scratch and scurry, bringing chinks of light to the dense space. Sounds ominous and weighty, well Off World’s final instalment doesn’t hold back on its serious intent but does so with such imaginative individualism that the music never drags. As always this collective provokes thought and consideration on every level, just look at the album cover for ‘3’. Are the buildings emerging or the trees fighting back? Like the best experimental music Off World’s footnote leads you to ask the questions.

Get your copy of ‘3‘ by Off World from your local record store or direct from Constellation HERE

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