The debut album from Austin trio Pale Dian is a remarkable fusion of dark, driving post-punk and ecstatic dreaminess. Two-thirds of the group (Ruth Ellen Smith and Derek Kutzer) were previously in Blackstone Rngrs, a band which veered toward the poppy side of dream pop while remaining abstract. They were decent, but Pale Dian are a definite improvement, with a much tighter focus and more memorable songs. With the addition of Nicholas Volpe, the trio seem to take definite inspiration from the Cocteau Twins; the drum machine often sounds like it could've been the same one used on Treasure, and Smith has a similar far-off reverb effect to her vocals, which are often as indecipherable as Elizabeth Fraser's. Early album standout "In a Day" seems a bit more cheerful than the Twins, though, and its gleeful spirit and catchy vocal melody make it the type of six-minute epic that could easily go on much longer without any complaints from the listener. "Pas de Deux" retreats a little further into the shadows, although it has a bit of a perky synth-pop bounce to it. "Lonesome Waste" and "Diana" both balance lovelorn melancholy with pretty melodies, and they sound like potential theme songs for some sort of goth prom. The album gets darker and more heartbroken from there, and "The Avenue" is as devastating as anything by fellow Austinites Troller. Pale Dian do a remarkable job of combining blissful emotions with expressions of utter confusion, abandonment, and betrayal, and it seems like there's barely any distinction between the positive and negative sides. The songs hit hard, and Narrow Birth is an incredible debut.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson