El Perro Del Mar
The Control Group
Nov 16, 2012 Issue #43 - Animal Collective
Sarah Assbring (who performs as El Perro Del Mar) is an expert at alchemizing melancholy into pop. But for all her dedication to the grey scale of human emotion, her previous output has varied wildly—from inscrutable pop classic (debut El Perro Del Mar) to the intriguing (Love is Not Pop), to the let’s-just-forget-it-happened downer (From the Valley to the Stars). On her fourth offering, the Swedish chanteuse has a found a new middle ground between the heartache and dance breaks. Still the princess of broken hearts, this time Assbring isn’t necessarily advocating that her listeners give up the romantic ghost as well.
While her previous high point, her self-titled debut, was a study in David Lynch creepy-cute pop, Pale Fire is an altogether slinkier beast. Icy dance tracks “To the Beat of a Dying World” and “Walk on By” place Assbring’s girlish, whispered vocals at the forefront, supported by ghostly syncopation and the occasional muted spoken word sample. Both factors bring to mind two other notable Nordic women working in the dual mediums of synth and sadness: Fever Ray and Lykke Li. However, while any Fever Ray or Lykke Li outing is sonically consistent, Pale Fire is a far more unpredictable creature.
Assbring dots the album’s 10 tracks with sophisticated tonal variations. “Dark Night” plays like the closing credits of a particularly emotional 1980s cinematic masterpiece. “I Carry the Fire” brings a whiff of trance to Assbring’s pop proclivity. “Hold Off the Down” is the most commanding dance tune she has written to date. Meanwhile, “Love in Vain” bubbles with a light reggae beat. (It works, really!) Given her history of musical reinvention, chances are Assbring won’t bring the same moves to the table for her next album. But in an industry constantly begging for innovation, Pale Fire delivers magnificently. (www.elperrodelmar.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 8/10