El Perro Del Mar: Pale Fire
Swedish solo artist Sarah Assbring, under alias El Perro Del Mar, has been releasing her lo-fi electronica for nearly a decade. Her fifth studio album, Pale Fire, is something of a slow burn. Some spots flare up brightly while others are lost to the ash.
The title track is an engaging start, with an organic horn and bass opener leading to a frenetic beat as Assbring croons, “Never grow tired of this pale, pale fire.” The defining aspect of her music is not the writing, but the use of her voice almost as an instrument in and of itself. “I Carry the Fire,” for instance, has her voice so distorted in moments that her tone alone carries the song. Likewise, “Dark Night” is perhaps the strongest song on the album, with sprawling electro in the style of Múm complemented by Assbring’s non-lyrical singing.
Unfortunately, some of the material is mired in the cliché. “Love Confusion” is tedious from the start with its ‘80s sound and repeated assertion of “I love him.” When the songs are as sparse as this, every lyric counts. Love is surely an inspiration for most artists, but such common phrases are wasted on a voice so lovely and music this captivating.
For the most part, Pale Fire is a quiet, beautiful album. The middle does get weighed down, but the beginning and end are worth the moments of disengagement.