The cover to Pale Spring’s second album, DUSK, depicts frontwoman and multi-instrumentalist Emily Harper Scott flanked by massive desert rocks, standing tall, as if she’d just landed on an alien planet. It’s an apt metaphor for the reissue of Pale Spring’s first albums, which grapple with dreams, tension and assertion, on American Dreams Records. DUSK is the product of the group’s move from Baltimore to Los Angeles, juxtaposing challenging subject matter with ethereal arrangements that incorporate samples, synthesizers and analog instruments.
Conceptually, Pale Spring attempts to reconcile apparent contradictions in the human condition: healing from, and feeling comforted by, depression and generational trauma. Harper Scott writes songs that relate “intensely personal accounts” and “the images that haunt my dreams.” DUSK abounds with wounds, breaks and bodies; characters yearn, make love, bare themselves. These songs have a dreamlike quality, as if existing outside of time; their simultaneous spareness, richness and languor belies the pair’s intricate collaboration. “Songwriting and producing are interconnected processes for me,” Harper Scott says. She passes musical ideas back and forth with Scott, whose production responds to or builds from her instrumentals and melodies. Often songs incorporate bits of old ones, as on album closer “Dark,” which revolves around an outtake from their sessions for CYGNUS. Here and throughout the record, Harper Scott elasticizes syllables: “Give me a space that I can call sacred,” she sings, and just as her harmonies suggest the song’s chord progressions, the song suggests such a space.
On “Safe,” Harper Scott’s oblique vocal melodies snake around her rhythmic drum programming, at times evoking British landscape music band Hood. Elsewhere, the record features instrumentals from Baltimore-via-Africa polymath Infinity Knives (whose own record, Dear, Sudan, was just reissued by Phantom Limb). “Slow Motion” is emblematic: Harper Scott casually glides between susurrations in the fourth and fifth octaves while dawbs of guitar and samples suggesting saxophone and piano float around her vocals. The song features a music video directed by Priscilla Mars, with lush visuals paralleling the song’s allusions to physicality. “It really captures that creepy, ethereal, Lynchian element that LA has,” says Scott. “There’s a whole different gloom here.”
Now, with DUSK widely available on LP, Pale Spring has the chance to share their music with listeners old and new. For the band — who originally released DUSK last summer, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and cancelled tours in support of its release — the rerelease is rejuvenating. “We made these records while coping with transitional periods of our lives as individuals and as a couple,” says Scott. “It will be an intense experience to listen to them again when I can put the record on the turntable.”