Sparrow has a no-frills, all-hardware approach, though it's far from primitive or grungy. She prefers crystal clear tones; her synth leads are as bold and brilliant as finely-wrought jewels. Built with just a drum machine and one or two other elements, her airy tunes leave every sharp corner or round contour open for inspection. This sound palette puts all the focus on her melodies, which are remarkably tuneful despite sometimes lacking the tension of a more experienced songwriter.
The austerity of Sparrow's arrangements, paired with her ear for sing-song melody, makes for quite a combo. The brooding basslines of "Sh" don't prepare you for the chiming arpeggio that comes bumbling in, and on "Coasting," she paints broad, affecting strokes with the homey charm of fellow Vancouverites Flørist and D. Tiffany. Maligne Range has its darker moments, too, but they're never suffocating. "Heart Mountain" has an evocative mystery behind its sullen exterior, while "Minas" evokes the exquisite loneliness of Tin Man.
Maligne Range is a study of that particular feeling of isolation, the sound of one person and their machines in the dark. It's solitude projected six different ways, from the happy-go-lucky to the forlorn. A modest album that cycles through only a few sounds during its 28 minutes, Maligne Range can feel slight, but more than anything it just feels like a debut: shaky in some parts and nearly assured in others. In a scene full of laid-back groovers and lo-fi DIYers, Sparrow's starkness has an allure all its own.