Sometimes a little mystery can be nice, and mystery is something that El Perro Del Mar and her sound lend themselves to very well. See, we can’t translate her name by ourselves – we are linguistically inarticulate Brits after all – though it does give an impression of grace and elegance; aesthetically sleek, an exotic utterance in a soft foreign tongue. If also sounding a little like a Mediterranean beach resort. But we like it. Which makes it a slight let down when you find out is simply means ‘woodwork’. Woodwork can of course be elegant, it’s an art form wound up in the intricacies of carving techniques and a relationship with nature nurtured over centuries. We’re fairly sure we spent a satisfying half hour with Ray Mears on the very subject. But it also means blunt hacksaws, lumpy chunks of balsawood and badly made mug-trees by little Jimmy, aged 8.
But if we must stick with woodwork then it is clear which side of the definition she falls on. El Perro Del Mar is the project of a girl going by the name of Sarah (yes, just Sarah) from Gothenburg in Sweden who’s passion for the virgin snowfall purity of 60s orchestral pop and Motown harmonies, and an intuitive capacity for travelling light musically, has gently crafted ten detailed expanses of melodic divinity. As complex as a snowflake, as beautifully simple as feeling one hitting your cheek. We’re talking untold sweetness here, perhaps the vocals of Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw or Olivia Newton John layered atop subtle swells of Hammond organ, lightly tickled guitars, distant beats sewn into the atmosphere and velveteen strings.
But nonetheless this is no retro homage. It has a crisp modern glint in its eye with tender, ambient soundscapes like the engine room of fellow Swedish showgazer folk Radio Dept running on economy. She reminds more specifically of sleek 21st century chanteuse Dot Alison and St Etienne at the very core of their appeal. ‘Candy’ opens the album delicately but with real purpose, like hearing Mazzy Star and Kate Bush records playing simultaneously through a thin wall. ‘God Knows (You Gotta Give To Get)’ is like Emiliana Torrini skipping through the morning dew at Gracelands, ‘Dog’ feels like Tanya Donnelly tending to her angel’s wings and ‘I Can’t Talk About It’ is perky yet fantastically mournful with a soul vocal that would have been ripe for picking by Moby back in the day. And the wood carving metaphor works, but after living with her debut album for some time we see her more as cut crystal.share this: