Sarah Perrotta’s new record is stimulating, enveloping and transformative

Sarah Perrotta

The graceful and dramatic artistic song of Sarah Perrotta, a native of Mid-Hudson, has always struck me as a variation of progressive rock. This is true of both his impending new release – the magnificent and defining career of his career. From blue to gold – and his first work with the art-pop duo Outloud Dreamer. Perrotta’s continued interest in keyboard counterpoint, non-traditional forms, dizzying dynamics, and lush, cascading sounds may seem to owe more to the great generation of experimental female singer-songwriters of the ’80s and’ 90s: Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan. But I claim these brilliant women were also employed in the singer-songwriter division of Prog.

Literally, no one agrees with me.

That’s the thing with progressive rock. No one raises their hand when you call their name. No one is reluctant to do so. Yet the Prog rock impulse continues to assert itself, transmuted and disguised, in the most unlikely places.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Prog establishment came under intense pressure, evolve or die, from pub rock, punk and new wave. The punk agenda seemed to target progressive arena rock by name, demolishing its epic forms; its Ren Faire fashions; and its distant and spenserian lyrical pretensions born in the real Hogwarts of Eton and Charterhouse.

Punk and the New Wave claimed to clean the bridges of all that indulgent, quasi-orchestral goop, restoring hooks, marrow, transgressive energy, sex and political agency as the natural values ​​of rock and roll, like Eddie. Cochrane wanted it. All of this landed punk’s greatest poet, Joe Strummer, the son of the British diplomat, on stages in the arena he probably would have preferred to burn with Pink Floyd and Asia still upon them. You will struggle with this paradox. I’m here to talk about Prog.

Prog’s journey

Challenged, energized and in survival mode, Prog has adapted. For a while the evidence was all over the pop charts: yes with the hit-laden, proto-sampled 90125 (“Owner of a Lonely Heart”) and Genesis with invigorating, groove-focused mid-career climax ABACAB (“No response at all.”)

Compare these cryptic, wordless album tracks to such lavish predecessors as Tales of topographic oceans Where The lamb lies down on Broadway. Prog was learning to be terse.

Meanwhile, King Crimson, who had never considered himself to be Prog, adapted with a big FU to pop: the fierce, lean, mathematical and urgent rock art of Discipline and To beat, music so edgy and startlingly fresh that it immediately spilled over into the more adventurous things of the New Wave, like Police, Talking Heads and XTC.

Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel launched a solo career that, over time, would arguably invent cerebral rock minimalism, rock globalism, and an early take on hybrid man / machine electronics, possibly arriving a little earlier. Prince, but after the Germans. .

The pop hits of Prog’s Last Breath have followed the path of all pop, but the edgy nu-prog modalities pioneered by Crimson and Gabriel have remained timeless, a musical truth. Which brings us back to Sarah Perrotta’s Blue to Gold, release planned for mid-October. Produced by great drummer Jerry Marotta, whose paw prints are everywhere the best of Peter Gabriel’s solo, Blue to Gold features contributions from a number of top players with prog and art-rock backgrounds including Marotta, of course, as well as her drummer Gabriel Tony Levin, Sara Lee of Gang of Four, Bowie’s sideman Gerry Leonard, and more. It was recorded at Dreamland Studio and at Marotta’s personal studio in Jersville.

Costly surprises

Blue to Gold is a daringly maximalist and baroque record. Dare because minimalism is so trendy right now. Billie Eilish’s new record Happier than ever, on which the Californian pop prodigy explores every teenager’s struggle with global stardom, is richly musical in composition but threadbare in arrangement and tone, as anyone could populist like anything by Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger. And it’s also the greatest thing in the world.

This age is crazy for very personal words of unmediated experience and one-iron emotion. I’m old, so I call it “denominational”. Fork is younger, so they call it “transparency”. This lyrical value also has a musical analogy, evident in a lot of minimalist mainstage pop and in recent singles released by my favorite eccentric roots-rock darlings Big Thief, songs so loosely arranged, undeveloped and undercooked that ‘they sound like donuts never quite did in the deep fryer. They do it because they can.

Blue to Gold comes from this other universe, the one where the choirs materialize and disappear, where armies of guitars with the flavors of the 80s infiltrate above global polyrhythms wrapped in delicate, cleverly crimped and fluffy layers of synths, mellotron, from strings, studio ambience and arrangements to the geological layers.

There is an expensive surprise around every corner of this record. This more is more aesthetic can sometimes lead to music that is nothing but a placemat, not a table. But rhyming partners Perrotta and Marotta, along with Marotta’s favorite mixing engineer Michael Cozzi, have worked hard to make sure Sarah’s songs and whispered vocals always stay on point. Each element serves the peak and fall tidal arcs of these songs and their radical emotional intent.

Things start off pretty little with a distant, monophonic piano melody and an intimate voice right in your ear hole at the top of “On the Other Side”. But give it a minute. At 2:50 a.m., that same intimate voice rises to the top of a choir of angels and a gigantic power ballad rhythm. At 4:20, Perrotta takes up the fragile piano / voice intro, and the epic stave of Blue to Gold has been unquestionably established.

Jerry and Sarah.

Clever songs

It works, and one of the reasons is the rather sublimated values ​​of Perrotta’s song art. As rock bands continually find out when trying to become symphonic, you can only add so much complexity to the top of a one-four-five. Perrotta’s skillful and artful songs offer a lot of harmonic sophistication for the backing vocals and sound design to feed. Some tunes here, like the charming “Echo of Joy”, take on an almost musical quality.

After a three-song opening epic streak, we’re refreshed with a few pithy pop numbers under four minutes in “Firestorm” and “Heartbeat,” the latter knowingly echoing Cyndi Lauper’s two-beat vocal phrase. “Time after time. After that, we return to the land of the art-pop epic for the duration, a four-song streak that includes several of the record’s highlights, to my ears: the groovy, complex” Spectrum of Color. ” and moving.

The impressionistic ballad of the title track (Sarah and I bonded several times over our love for Debussy) and the album’s impressive closing classic and doo-wop of “Circles” blend into the same soft whistle from which “On the Other” Side “first appeared.

The relationship

This record is a journey: stimulating, enveloping and transforming. No wonder it took so long to do.

“The design of the songs all had a simple start,” Perrotta said. “They all start with a sentiment, which can be an epic sentiment, but the initial performance is raw and straightforward, with just the vocals and the piano. I brought these songs to Jerry, and we built them slowly over the course. of time, distilling their essence, combing them a million times until we both felt they were “done.”

“Although the album is lush, nothing is overplayed. Jerry asked me to record my piano parts with one hand at a time, asking me to simplify my parts as much as possible. The layers are built rhythmically with simple patterns. It’s the way all of these parts relate to each other that creates the feeling of greatness.

Blue to Gold is clearly about the dynamics and trust of the artist-producer relationship. “I don’t think we ever got into a fight over the outcome of a song in the end,” said Marotta. “Sometimes you have to try six misconceptions until you find the right idea. Some of my favorite songs that I have produced have very little or nothing on them. A lot of times producers and artists feel like “we’re making one record, shouldn’t it have more? I don’t think you have to pile things up to appease the artist. I trust my instincts entirely. How does this affect me? do I love him? Does it move me?

Each song is approached individually. Each song had its own personality. “Kind of like people,” Marotta said. “I was keenly aware of maintaining Sarah’s presence on every song. If we are not careful, the artist can be overwhelmed by the production. I feel like we’ve done a good job of balancing the production of artists, songs, and songs. In Sarah’s case. she has the ability and the talent to be artistic one minute and eye-catching the next.

“The songs are each like a prayer or a meditation for me based on relationships and life experience,” Perrotta explained. “Topics include the fear and altruism of parenthood, transitioning, embracing our primitive dark side, rising above conflict, not wanting a good thing to end, being open to the pursuit of dreams. , finding unity in the midst of a misunderstanding, a tribute to a friend who died suddenly, a call to live fully and observe the cyclical beauty of it all.

Perrotta is an artist in the truest sense of the word, concludes Marotta. Warm. Kind. Passionate. Soulful. The way she is with her kids. Her husband. Her family. Her friends. Music. She’s an inspiration. She touches people, whether it’s playing the piano, singing or just walking into a room. I’m eternally grateful that the music brought us together. We’ll always be friends. I’m already thinking about where her next album should go.

For more information on Sarah Perrotta, visit sarahperrottamusic.com. To learn more about Jerry Marotta, visit jerrymarotta.com. Blue to Gold is scheduled for release October 15 on 7D Media / Third Star Records.

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