Hers is a shivery presence, like moonlight on flesh.
Martin Aston 2012-11-01
In the now-crowded pantheon of Scandinavian sirens/songbirds (delete where applicable), Gothenburg’s Sarah Assbring has sadly slipped to the back.
Maybe the fact her nom de plume is Spanish for "The Dog of the Sea" means people think she’s from the Mediterranean – perhaps a region perceived as in some way un-hip? But her low public profile is probably more down to her equally low profile when she steps up to the microphone.
Pale Fire isn’t just her fourth studio album – after 2009’s Love is Not Pop, 2008’s From the Valley to the Stars and 2006’s eponymous debut. It’s also the most suitable title, summing up EPDM’s subtlety and restraint, on a par with her compatriot Susanna.
This set’s translucent synths, gently gliding beats and all-encompassing aural haze makes Everything but the Girl’s similarly pale fire sound bonfire-like in comparison. The title Pale Fire comes from Assbring’s observation that, when life’s been a bit, you know, rubbish, and lonely, the promise of love and hope is, “a flickering light… a pale fire”.
So she’s not going to be coming on all foghorn Florence any time soon, nor channelling the more combative style of her compatriots Fever Ray or Lykke Li. Hers is more of a shivery presence, like moonlight on flesh. For example, the main instrumental drive of Walk on By (no, not that one) comes from the melodica, as wistful and unassuming instrument that was ever invented.
Occasionally, Assbring might be advised to break sweat, or maybe even break down, such as taking the occasional moans of To the Beat of a Dying World to a more gripping locale. It’s less for the commercial ramifications than a change of mood. In the case of the reggae-like Love in Vain, El Perro del Mar might conceivably mean “The Dog That Blew Away”.
No matter, because Pale Fire is a pale beauty, and if you’re seeking the chill-out Lykke Li (with whom she split a single in 2009) or an equivalent oasis of smouldering calm, Assbring will see you right.