ARTS

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November 6, 2003

Polpo follow-up is symphonic bliss

For a genre that was originally conceived by Brian Eno as a sort of aural counterpoint to furniture, ambient music has ironically blossomed into an immersive form, with greater capacity to engage the listener than all manners of in-your-face rock or electronic bands. The catch, of course, is its dependence upon an attentive listener, a solitary diver willing to explore its sonic depths.

For these very reasons, Sandro Perri's second wide-release album, recorded under the name Polmo Polpo, can pass by with nary an impression, other than one of enveloping warmth. I won't preach about how you really have to sit and listen to Like Hearts Swelling on huge headphones that cover your entire skull like mine, although this really is a viable way to experience the album. From the spacy slide guitar to the deep cello drone of "Farewell," this is pleasantly somnambulant music, meant to buoy the listener up on clouds of reverb. Feel free to float.

An even more thrilling way to engage the album is to try to hear every layer of every song and to realize that on tracks like "Sky Histoire," cello, tambourine, slide guitar, acoustic guitar, congas, bells, alto saxophone, and a deep electronic bass all contribute to the fluid motion implied by the song. At that point, the song really opens up and admits it's as dizzyingly beautiful as you first thought.

Situated somewhere between the verdant rainforest of Gas and the space stations of early Mogwai, Like Hearts Swelling transcends conjecture about Polmo Polpo's influence and delivers even this hardened cynic into the sublime.