Song Blueprint: “The Perfect Flaw” by Sanko

erik sankoOver the last decade, Erik Sanko has divided his
time between the Lounge Lizards and Skeleton Key. In 2001, Sanko
released his only solo album, Past Imperfect / Present Tense
(Jetset Records), which contains eleven unusual and haunting songs
that address loss of all kinds. On the album, Sanko performs on
foreign-sounding homemade instruments alongside gently plucked guitars.
Perhaps the greatest impression, though, is made by the lyrics,
which are blunt and heartbreaking. Lines like "The soldier
still feels his missing arm move the same way that I can still feel
you," ("Easy to Remember") make for a lovely and
unsettling experience. Identity Theory asked Sanko to revisit
one of his compositions, "The Perfect Flaw," and share
the story behind it, some of its secrets, and how it strikes him
now, seven years later.

-Anna-Lynne Williams

The song "The Perfect Flaw" is inspired by the Japanese concept
of wabi-sabi. In wabi-sabi, the quirks and anomalies arising from
the process of construction add uniqueness and elegance to the object,
or in this case, the woman. The embodiment of this philosophy can
be seen in Japanese pottery where cups used are often not quite
symmetrical; "The Perfect Flaw" is about this aesthetic concept
as applied to a woman and how all her "imperfections" add to her
desirability. The song describes different elements that would normally
be considered flawed or less than perfect and ascribes them to the
physical and behavioral properties of a woman.

In wabi-sabi there is also a sense of longing for something intangible.
That sense is referenced in the lyric, "Is there a magic cipher
I read too much that says there's something inside her I'll
never touch?" Also, in the general sparseness of the arrangement
intending to evoke a sense of vulnerability. The song was recorded
at home (The Hiss Factory) on an old, semi-functional 8 track, using
a borrowed keyboard (I think it was some kind of Casio), and a delay
pedal. I cleverly tried to hide my mediocre keyboard playing by
continually changing the delay time with my left hand while playing
the melody with my right and giving the sound an overall unstable,
watery effect and hopefully blurring any flubs. It was like putting
Vaseline on the camera lens to give the starlet a soft and dreamy
look.

The song was then transferred to a very expensive computer where
it was mixed by Peter Freeman (presently Jon Hassel's bass
player and collaborator) who diplomatically kept all the idiosyncrasies
while balancing all the levels, which is a very tricky thing to
do when there are so few ingredients (I think I only used six of
the eight tracks).

All highbrow musings aside, it is really just a simple pop song,
and at the end of the day if it doesn't sound good, nobody's
going to care, no matter what the subject matter may be.

The song still sounds pretty good to me, and I feel that it at
least was able to get a little bit of the feeling I was aiming for,
but as in the concept of wabi-sabi, how successful it was is completely
subjective.

Listen to "The Perfect Flaw" on MySpace at
http://www.myspace.com/eriksanko

Image courtesy Scott Irvine

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