The Past We Leave Behind

Pale Blue

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The Past We Leave Behind Review

by Heather Phares

Anyone who thinks electronic music is clinical should listen to Pale Blue's The Past We Leave Behind, an album that proves emotional substance and musical style can coexist in dance music. Producer Mike Simonetti made the album during a personally turbulent time that was bookended by Hurricane Sandy and his departure from the dreamy Italo-disco label Italians Do It Better (which he co-founded with Chromatics' Johnny Jewel). Meanwhile, he was remixing tracks by other artists, which is how he discovered the gorgeous voice of Silver Hands' Elizabeth Wight. With a range that spans an otherworldly soprano and a smoldering alto, Wight is as versatile as Simonetti is, and just as vital to the album's success. She's the conduit for the emotional undercurrents in his productions: on the hall-of-mirrors dream pop of "Myself" and the title track, she adds an ethereality that recalls 4AD's glory days (as well as Chromatics' hazy beauty); on more kinetic tracks such as "Distance to the Waves" and the ominous clockwork of "One Last Thing," she's crisply alluring. She and Simonetti make melancholy sound downright luscious on "The Scars," a track that conveys feeling like an insignificant speck in a vast universe as vividly as the duo's name -- which comes from "Pale Blue Dot," the famous photo of Earth taken by the Voyager 1 space probe -- does. However, it isn't just sadness that the duo express on The Past We Leave Behind. "Tougher," a surprising, inspired reworking of Bruce Springsteen's "Tougher Than the Rest," is a winning blend of tenacity and romance with an urgency that is Pale Blue's own. Similarly, Simonetti explores the healing power of house rhythms on the standout "Dusk in Parts," with Lower Dens' Jana Hunter completing its meditative yet sultry vibe. This emotional directness makes each song compelling and anchors the album's stylistic shifts, whether it's the beautiful ambient respite "Rain," "The Math"'s playful nod to nu-disco, or the lone instrumental "The Eye," a techno excursion that holds its own with the vocal-dominated tracks. It never feels like Simonetti and Wight are dabbling on The Past We Leave Behind; instead, the changes they explore just add to the feeling that as they say goodbye to what was, they're saying hello to a promising future.

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