El Perro Del Mar : Big Anonymous

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El Perro Del Mar Big Anonymous review

Sarah Assbring, the Swedish singer/songwriter who performs and records under the name El Perro Del Mar, has traveled a great distance in two decades. On her early singles and self-titled debut compilation (a slight reshuffling of the prior year’s Look! It’s El Perro Del Mar!), Assbring introduced herself via twinkling, reverb-laden pop melancholy with a heavy cloak of ’60s-era girl-group pop. In only a matter of years, she all but left that charmingly youthful twee sound behind, collaborating with members of Studio on the Balearic downtempo of Love Is Not Pop, deepening her electronic arrangements in 2012’s Pale Fire and drawing inspiration from Japanese folk music in 2016’s Kokoro—heartbreak her only constant companion.

Heartbreak remains an essential aspect to Big Anonymous, her first new album in eight years, but not in the way it was on her earliest recordings. Grief and loss hang heavy over these 10 songs, reflecting the kind of inevitable growth and introspection that comes after friends and loved ones are gone. The gentle beauty and melodic prowess of EPDM’s past albums hasn’t changed, but they’re awash in haunted ambience and elegiac tones, which are at once her most quietly sophisticated songs, as well as simply her best.

Each of the tracks on Big Anonymous was born from a choreographed project commissioned by Stockholm’s historic Royal Dramatic Theatre, and it’s easy to hear how songs this elegant and evocative would translate to a staged dance production. But here, they’re further transformed into breathtaking art-pop productions, vacillating between the spectral chill of Cocteau Twins at their most incorporeal and Kate Bush in her maximalist glory. Assbring rides this curious line between understated and lush throughout, whether through the mesmerizing darkwave of “Suburban Dreams” or the aching fragility of “Cold Dark Pond.” Its first single, “In Silence”—which Assbring wrote about about the guilt of feeling as if you’re not grieving enough for ones you’ve lost and how, in her words, “you can’t reason with the dead”—fittingly communes with spirits in beautifully haunted fashion, whereas the reworked “Please Stay” from 2019 treats its torch-song glamour with dissolution and decay, an overt showcase for how much of an evolution these pieces have undergone.

It feels appropriate that Big Anonymous, a record marked for both its connection to performance art and the inevitability of loss, reveals itself slowly and gradually through songs that reflect a kind of lingering anguish. Though it’s dark, it’s rarely defeatist—the thick blanket of distortion on “Wipe Me Off This Earth” isn’t wrapped around a wish to be erased so much as a recognition of the cycles of life in which we’re entangled. And on the industrial-tinged closer “Kiss of Death,” a collaboration with Bristol producer Vessel, Assbring sings, “I’m giving despite the kiss of death/I’m not living like it is a threat.” In finding acceptance and the light of a new day, El Perro Del Mar translates grief into a masterful display of grace.

Label: City Slang

Year: 2024

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El Perro Del Mar Big Anonymous review

El Perro Del Mar : Big Anonymous

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