Swedish chanteuse Sarah Assbring admits that El Perro Del Mar — the ethereal project she launched in 2003 with her writing-producing-romantic partner Jacob Haage — was a somewhat selfish pursuit. She never imagined another entity in its arcane mix.
But three years ago, the couple had a son, Louis, and everything changed.
“Looking back, I never thought that I would be a parent, that was the idea I had about myself. But it was a complete revolution – existentially, personally, and artistically. It was totally mind-blowing,” says the musician, who appears in The City this week.
Motherhood would heavily influence future El Perro Del Mar work, as well. “KoKoro,” Assbring and Haage’s latest fifth effort, is a textural tour de force buttressed by exotic instruments like dulcimer, Arabic strings, Chinese guzheng, Japanese shakuhachi flute, and tones from India, Ethiopia, Thailand and Sumatra.
She imagined a borderless sound, which, in today’s increasingly right-leaning era of racism, misogyny and xenophobia, would unite disparate cultures into a single mellifluous mélange.
As a mom, Assbring saw the world through childlike “Little Prince” eyes again, a talent she’d lost touch with.
“I wanted to focus my mind and my ears in a way that made me feel like I was hearing music for the first time in my life, like I was 5 years old,” she says of songs including “Ding Sum,” “Breadandbutter” and “A-Bun-Dance.”
“Music that can bring people together is what we need, because we’re living in a world where we’re being told not to think too much. So I wouldn’t exactly describe it as a political album,” she adds. “It’s more like a poetic musical wake-up call.”
Assbring, an admitted misanthrope, says she has long had a bleak, fatalistic view of mankind. But she points to an incident when she was 12, on a Spanish beach and at the nadir of depression, and was befriended by a timid, skeletal mutt that seemed to speak to her.
“At that point, I was actually considering checking out,” she says. “So the dog moment was me going, “OK there are sweet little things with a really sweet heart, so I’ll stay for that.’”
Shortly thereafter, she adopted the El Perro Del Mar moniker for her cathartic songs.
The arrival of Louis was another paradigm shift. Accepting the responsibility of raising him, Assbring says, “I came to understand a whole other idea of worldly responsibility, not only to your child, but to yourself, humanity, and the way things are going. Now it’s all too clear to me that the simplest things, like human values, are things I need to fight for.”
IF YOU GO
El Perro Del Mar
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 21
Tickets: $13 to $15
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.ticketfly.comEl Perro Del MarJacob HaageKoKoro]Pop MusicSarah Assbring