Jean-Jacques Perrey and Dana Countryman
Whether you’re clubbing with Robert Smith or celebrating Christmas with Mannheim Steam Roller or chilling out to “Hearts of Space,” you have Jean-Jacques Perrey to thank for the weirdness of electronic music. Just as Les Paul gave us the electric guitar and multi-track records, Perrey helped bring us the synthesizer and figured out the tricks of making a few sine wave oscillators sound like the complex overtones of pianos or pipe organs.
At 79, Mr. Perrey remains prolific; he’s released 7 CDs in the past 10 years, and works tirelessly to prove the synthesizer can do anything in any style. Today we call him electro pop, but he’s made a distinct sound since the ’60s that focuses on pop sensibility and upbeat rhythms. There’s no moody jazz or black death metal on this collection of recent compositions, rather it recalls his earliest music while covering a wild variety of styles from French film soundtrack “Venusian Love Duet” to the cartoon-y Wild West “Barn Dance On Saturn” to the Latin-flavored “Cafe Brasilia.” Opening with “Destination Space,” my first thought was his ’60s hit “Passport to the Future,” and “The Spy From Outer Space” could be a cheap James Bond rip-off theme.
What all these tunes have in common are the round, complete notes of electronic music; there are no attempts to make them sound “correct.” His partner in musical synthesis, Dana Countryman, brings along a weird collection of vintage instruments, but everything here is old school Switched-on-Electronica. The duo avoids scratching, sampling, frequency shifting, and midi tricks, preferring to say “We’re done with ebony and ivory and haven’t met the 8-bit Future yet.” Perrey and Countryman make fun music that’s unpretentious and just aching for an experimental film festival.