El Perro Del Mar, From The Valley To The Stars

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Midway through her hushed second album, El Perro del Mar's sole member, Sarah Assbring, delivers what may be this record's thesis: “This is the message that comes from above: ‘Do not despair, do not despair.'” This is a sincere — even optimistic — work: Gone is Assbring's ear-bending device of crooning happy songs in a sad, shell-shocked voice. On much of From the Valley to the Stars, this Gothenburg, Sweden musician sings in a whisper that's even softer and distinctly less distressed than the one she employed on her comparatively lively 2006 debut. That disc's girl-group inspirations are subtler this time, with results that are less indiepop and closer to the adrift ambience of Brian Eno's Another Green World. Organ sounds gently dominate, emphasizing a prayerfulness Brian Wilson would understand; they're so minimal that on “Inner Island” the keyboard simply hums the same faint “ommmm” for the entire song as if in deep meditative chant.

Swedish chanteuse offers another batch of spectral healing.

Despite a bittersweet bounce that at times recalls fellow Gothenburg native Jens Lekman — particularly on the album's atypically perky and most single-worthy cut “Somebody's Baby” — From the Valley feels like a unified whole. Brief instrumentals like “Inside the Golden Egg” tie the album together, and the movement from the not-exactly-elated-but-at-least-expectant opening cut “Jubilee” to the nearly-folky closing “Your Name Is Neverending” is calming, reassuring. Cynics may dismiss El Perro del Mar's latest as a New Age or Christian album, and they'd only be half-wrong. This soothing record aims to heal in its own winsome way.