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El Perro Del Mar

El Perro del Mar is the project of Sarah Assbring, a Swedish musician whose celestial aural confections combine contemporary experimental pop with Brill Building pop and the influences of Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach, and Smokey Robinson. Meanwhile, her lyrics speak with a sweet, ineffable sadness of the pitfalls of love and life. Assembled from prior short-form releases, the project's international full-length debut, El Perro del Mar, arrived in 2006. She landed in the Swedish Top 40 with her next two albums, including the collaborative Love Is Not Pop (2009). Those records also reflected a shifting sound, drawing, in turn, on disco and dark synth atmospheres. Released in 2016, fifth long-player KoKoro was influenced by Assbring immersing herself in Asian and African pop. It was followed by EPs such as 2018's We Are History, 2020's politically charged Free Land, and the 2021 piece she composed to accompany the modern dance work Riptide. The dark and brittle 2023 single "In Silence," about the guilt that may follow grief, previewed El Perro del Mar's next long-player, 2024's Big Anonymous. According to Assbring, the name El Perro del Mar came to her during an ill-fated vacation in Spain. She was alone, depressed, and out of sorts when a stray dog came up to her while she sat on the beach, and the dog's efforts to bond with her inspired her to express her feelings through songwriting. Assbring began recording songs on her own, playing most of the instruments herself as well as singing, and in late 2006, Sweden's Hybris label issued her debut release, a three-song EP. The EP earned enthusiastic reviews and respectable sales, and her next material was a split single with Jens Lekman, issued in North America by the prestigious indie label Secretly Canadian. A second EP, 2005's You Gotta Give to Get, did well in Sweden, thanks in part to a charming animated video for the title tune, and it helped spread the word about her music in England and the United States. Later that year, Hybris compiled El Perro del Mar's single sides and EPs into an album, Look! It's El Perro del Mar!; then, El Perro del Mar, a mostly reworked version of that first release, was issued in the U.K. by Memphis Industries in mid-2006, with an American version from The Control Group following shortly afterward. All of this was enough to get the singer signed to her fellow Swedes the Concretes' label, Licking Fingers, and she soon began working on more music. From the Valley to the Stars, her second album of original material, arrived in early 2008. When she next returned to the studio, she enlisted Rasmus Hägg of the group Studio as a collaborator. The full-length the duo created in 2009, Love Is Not Pop, was inspired less by her previous influences and more by disco and modern club sounds, though it still retained all the warmth and drama she had become known for. The 2012 album Pale Fire expanded on the electronic landscapes of Love Is Not Pop, pushing the singer further away from her indie beginnings into increasingly dark synth pop waters. Assbring was pregnant during the recording of the latter album and soon after gave birth to a son. After spending the next couple years raising him, she was inspired to get back into music by a trip to a musical instrument museum. Her next album incorporated Chinese string instruments, various Asian flutes, Arabic strings, dulcimer, and sounds inspired by Ethiopian and Indian music. Built using samples she recorded at the museum and through collaborations with bassists Andreas Söderström and Johan Berthling, drummer Mattias Bergqvist, and multi-instrumentalist Per "Ruskträsk" Johansson, KoKoro was released by The Control Group in September 2016. A year later, El Perro del Mar recorded an EP that Assbring considered a companion to KoKoro, deeply political and reflecting the troubled times in which it was recorded. The songs on 2018's We Are History were written on an electronic tabla box and co-produced by Jacob Haage. The 2020 EP Free Land, which includes a collaboration with Blood Orange, was born from numerous visits to Stockholm's Moderna Museet at times the contemporary art museum was closed to the public. Assbring continued her close association with the art world on her 2021 collaboration with Haage, a score written for choreographer Hlín Hjálmarsdóttir's modern dance piece titled Riptide. It was released as a standalone album in June 2021 by the Control Group. In late 2023, El Perro del Mar signed with City Slang and released the darkly melancholic single "In Silence" as a preview of the project's next album, February 2024's Big Anonymous. It also stemmed from a theater project, this one a commissioned work for Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theatre for two dancers and three musicians (Assbring, with Haage and Petter Granberg on synthesizers). Working with engineer Daniel Rejmer, the songs were later reworked with a handful of additional instruments and finishing touches by producer/composer Vessel (Seb Gainsborough) for the City Slang debut.
© Mark Deming & Marcy Donelson /TiVo


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