Sister Sarin has been steadily working her way through the ranks of the Baltimore dark electro scene as a DJ and live musician, with the release of the What’s Left Unsaid EP marking her official debut. Across five primarily instrumental tracks, the artist presents a tasteful and sophisticated blend of gothic-inspired arrangements and darkly melodic soundscapes that accomplish something quite intriguing.
The track “Tripwire,” which perhaps would’ve made a better opening track with the introductory “A place both wonderful and strange” sample from Twin Peaks, presents a bell-like melody amid swells of symphonic pads, the skittering of distant and muffled sound effects both disquieting and intriguing; the tempo picks up leading to a forceful dance beat and an almost funky bass tone with a subtle glassy gated synth adding to the rhythm and evoking the instrumental work of cEvin Key, but without sounding overtly like something out of his extensive catalog. Similarly, the dark bass pulse of “Nerve Agents” amid a miasma of metallic percussion and energetic synths, augmented by occasional samples, makes for a distinctly cybernetic vibe that seems reminiscent of the early instrumentals of Front Line Assembly, but again, without sounding like a direct imitation. This is no easy feat, especially for a first effort. Another of Sister Sarin’s strengths is simplicity through minimalism, allowing tuneful melodies in each track to carry the listener with just enough production touches to tickle the ears’ fancy, every element treated with lush tonality. For instance, the gritty descending bass pattern and ascending piano line of “Right Where It Belongs,” seemingly dancing between major and minor keys, aided in the song’s second half by a lilting synth tone that adds to the overall ambience. Despite the lack of percussion, the song has an undeniably striking cadence, while Sister Sarin’s emotive vocal delivery shines through the effects, keeping her at a distance just shy of the listener’s reach, which belies the rather poppy quality of the melody.
On the other hand, some of the EP’s tracks might benefit from a more intricately arranged or certainly more percussive remix treatment, and there is a sense that while the mix is solid, some tracks don’t quite burst through the speakers as forcefully as one might prefer. Nevertheless, What’s Left Unsaid is still a strong debut from an artist with much to offer; with a few more singles released since this EP, it will be interesting to hear Sister Sarin’s progression and development in hopes of reaching more dynamic musical heights.