ARTIST: Pastel Coast
RELEASE: Vague Noire
RELEASE DATE: 9th September 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Collective Noord Sfeer Records
Just only last year I began my stint with the ever-prestigious Primal Music blog, and with that stint begun revelling in the unearthing of many a brilliant band, musician, artist and producer. There is nothing more satisfying than receiving a CD from France, a thank you from the US or a recommendation from Brazil and announcing to your friends a list of reasons why they should listen to them, enjoy them and soak them up. At the end of last year, amongst the revelling and soaking process, I decided to construct a rough ‘Releases of the Year’ list and saw in my rear view mirror a grand appreciation and acclaim for two releases in particular. One was a return from the murky depths of the past by one of the most underrated bands in the history of popular music; US shoegaze/noise veterans 'The Veldt' appeared and drowned out their critics with a mesmerizingly beautiful five track EP that balanced shoegaze, trap music and noise pop with the contextual hymns of their past. The other release could not have been more different: from France I heard the lush, beautiful and unique sounds of 'Pastel Coast', a one man project that combined nostalgic overtures and dreamy tones with the guitar and synth lead production of indie pop. The EP, entitled 'Sense', was a melding of emotive guitar music and the kind of sun-drenched downtrodden attitudes of an evening spent on dirty beaches that made it so breathtakingly beautiful I could not stop talking to it and listening enough. So, when I heard that 'Pastel Coast' was to release a new EP, entitled 'Vague Noire', I turned my ears on again and awaited an opportunity to hear one of the worlds most interesting non-professional artists paint pictures with sounds, words and textures all over again. 'Vague Noire' was released back on the 9th September 2017 and is available to buy/download right now via pastelcoast.bandcamp.com
Vague Noire by Pastel Coast
‘Roses’ opens the EP, a guitar tinkering based track backed by a drum machine style beat. The vocals are deeper, perhaps a shade darker in texture than on 'Sense', but the music retains the playfully pop-infused jangle, interspersed with fantastic production and guitar tricks. Underneath the initial mix of guitars, bass and drums lies a neat soundscape-styled synth track that adds a more dreamy quality to the song. After the three minute mark 'Pastel Coast' showcases his fantastic guitar tricks with an intricate and ridiculously rewarding outro for the listener. ‘La Fille Aux Yeux d’Or’ follows with a similar musical structure: bouncing drums guide the guitars and bass through the outskirts of the song. However on ‘La Fille Aux Yeux d’Or’ the riffs and vocals take a more concentrated stance, sounding deeper and darker than on the EPs opening track. The fantastic guitar-orientated instrumental passages of ‘Roses’ appears even more prominently on ‘La Fille Aux Yeux d’Or’ especially on the second half of the track, making the song an easy EP highlight.
The lighthearted pop of ‘Malo Les Bains’ reaches an almost danceable level of bounce and tempo. The alluring French vocal offers a fantastically layered sketch of driving in the hills of ones hometown or dancing with friends long after the bar has closed: it is with these simple tricks that songs like ‘Malo Les Bains’ connect and resonate with the listener on a level of pure enjoyment and admiration. ‘Araginee’ sounds like it was a left over from 'Sense', its more reverb-centric guitar lead and keyboard backed sound allows it too come off (in a positive way) as like a sort of philosophised dance club track. Still in the backbone of the song (much like the others) is the core elements of indie pop music that make the song appear less experimental and, perhaps, more approachable as such. The title track appears as a cross between the dreamy, pop infused songs that have appeared throughout Vague Noire, and a more post-punk styled sound. While still light hearted, its chorus alters the landscape; carving out a more dark but entrancingly beautiful sound: another EP highlight.
Although a review of 'Vague Noire' is not an opportunity to balance its credibility upon a comparison between itself and 'Sense', it is important to note the transitions and influence that 'Pastel Coast' evokes from one to another. I’ll preface my thoughts on 'Vague Noire' by openly stating that I believe 'Sense' is a better EP, a fact that I thought would be integral to my opinions. Where 'Sense' relied heavily on thematic musical elements of what most would consider dream-pop and shoegaze music, 'Vague Noire' instead sees 'Pastel Coast' attend to a more pop influenced, indie rock type sound… And that is exactly wherein its brilliance lies. You see, its easy to ride off 'Vague Noire' as simply a bunch of indie pop songs that all retain a similar drum beat, but it is within each song that the true genius of 'Pastel Coast' shines. These tracks, gathered together with a unity of similar sounds and tones, are ridiculously well constructed indie pop songs: between the evidently neat guitar playing all the way to the background ambience, each song is a well built and oiled machine. Together, these tracks provide nothing but pure entertainment, joy and acclaim. Another thing: I can’t speak French (in fact I remember I spent all of my high school mandatory French lessons listening to music) so when you listen to an EP where the gentleman singing only does so in French, and it conjures up images, memories and dreams… Then there is something wholly fantastic and intelligent going on. Much like on 'Sense', 'Pastel Coasts' greatest connection with the listener is through the nostalgia-laced visions of parties, beaches and empty dance halls, except this time it is done less contemplatively and more subtle and somewhat initially appealing for some listeners. 'Vague Noire’s' beauty and love stands out against so much damn mediocrity that listening to it was like some kind of cleansing relief… An original and enjoyable piece of art, achieved through stellar production, intricate mixing and beautiful sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on Baeble Music and Culture (USA), Sounds and Colours Magazine (Latin America, London), Easterndaze (Latvia) and the Australian based heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
by Primal Music
ARTIST: Fools Ferguson
RELEASE: Dead Lines
RELEASE DATE: 27th January 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
The real, meaty, heavy side of dreampop/shoegaze music is shown; teeth-baring, wild and beautifully sludge-filled on the album 'Dead Lines' by Fools Ferguson. But even the heaviness and wall-of-sound like musical qualities are contrasted on the release by dreamy, wavering passages of music; strung together with FX, keys and a unique vocal style. Together these elements mix in with touches of post-punk revival and alternative rock to create quite an original group of sounds, genres and thoughts in the shape of music.
Dead Lines by Fools Ferguson
The album opens with the lengthy, over eight minute epic ‘Altered States’. It’s beginning showcases the aforementioned heavy side of alternative, dreamy music; guitars and drums link together to create a wide and tall sound and the use of the subtle sound of keys underneath the mix stir together to create a truly memorable intro to the song. The vocals are, unlike many dream pop/shoegaze bands, fully visible in the mix of the music. This allows for an interesting contrast and connection between the vocals and the synths/keys across the course of the song. A pounding drum machine manages to keep the song rolling along at a steady and patient pace, and occasionally a piece of technical wizardry or synth swirl will accompany the sounds on the song even further. It is true that the greatest parts of ‘Altered States’ are the creatively engaging instrumental pieces; built to convey images and emotions through chords and contrast. Turning things completely over in sound is the much more upbeat and shiny ‘Room and Roses’, which takes on a more pysch-rock influence while maintaining enough of an air of dream pop to remain slightly familiar. ‘Room and Roses’ is in fact a ridiculously catchy, well-written and brilliantly performed song. That’s about all I have to say about that. ‘Room and Roses’ is followed by the brilliant, post-punk revival sound of ‘Crystal Castles’ as much of an album highlight as ‘Room and Roses’, the song sees the band turn to the crux of classic post-punk music; equipped with thick bass lines, the double tap snare and hi-hat dance sound of the percussion, and the intricate, weaving sounds of guitar. It’s an enjoyable and interesting song that seeps more and more into a darker sound as it goes on; culminating in a heaviness of a different kind to the albums opening.
‘The House of Love’ slows everything down into a more pop orientated sound that even features an acoustic guitar! The verses seem to be a weird combination of synthpop (where keyboard lines bounce around on the riff) and alternative rock, making parts of the song seem uneven or perhaps even under written. The chorus is fantastic; featuring a great but simple riff that captures the essence of dream pop music in only a few notes/chords. Another album highlight is the epic, seven minute piece of dream music ‘Wild Sides’ which blends together dark, timid soundscapes with the previously explored structural elements of post-punk music. For most of the song, the music churns and churns in a kind of minimalist way, underpinned by the slow synth movements underneath the song. The vocals are more akin to traditional dream pop/shoegaze music; drowned and FX’d above the music; soaring and drifting in a kind of contemplative manner. ‘The Black Star…’ turns thing back to a more ‘Room and Roses’ kind of sound; although it appears less upbeat and catchy in its performance and style. The chorus really highlights a swift kind of ‘neat and tidy’ aesthetic the band have been hinting and playing at through the course of the release. By ‘neat and tidy’ I mean that the guitars and rhythm section all stay together tightly and neatly in a kind of package wrapped in FX, sounds and noise, rather than presenting a full frontal, wild and unformulated kind of noise or drone. ‘Something Outside’ ties in with other epic songs on the album in its length, height and even its weight. There is a fantastic bass guitar riff that guides a majority of the song, punctuated by the occasional free-jazz inspired drum tapping, but overall the entire thing sort of seems like a thrown together-distant piece of music that shows an occasionally interesting passage of sound or thought. ‘The Alohama Lakes’ turns things around yet again, creating a slow and yearning piece of heavy dream pop music. It’s an album highlight and one of the most prominent songs on the album that sounds fully developed and rehearsed by the band themselves. In fact, ‘The Alohama Lakes’ is a fantastic example of the kinds of songs and sounds the band create at their greatest and most inspired points of the album.
'Dead Lines' is certainly an interesting album from a talented and equally engaging band that seems to borrow elements across all sorts of genres of alternative music. But that can’t blend out the fact that this release seems uneven and fluctuating in its sincerity. There a few fantastic, brilliant tracks where the band show they’re skill in song writing and crafting, tied together even more so by brilliant performances. But even these said tracks vary so much in stylistic and conceptual elements that you wonder at times if you are listening to the same band as before. I stated before how there are some elements that carry from song to song, such as tones, distinct playing and kinds of sounds, but for most of the album these elements are not strong enough to resonate throughout the entire release. There were even times while listening to this where I thought how much powerful the songs would be if they were completely instrumental and there were other times where I wondered about where the song had wandered off to in context with the album. All these elements amount to what is referred to as ‘uneven’ or ‘muddled up’. But all this is not to say the band is without immense talent or skill. As stand alone tracks, a majority of the album sounds interesting and well produced. Furthermore, the bands skill is shown throughout the entire release through the avenue of performance; each instrument and sound melding fantastically together. This goes further to reflect the mixing in itself; brilliant, wild, subtle and amazing. I think this is very interesting and well-written music that you should here, but I also hope that Fools Ferguson reconvenes to consider how an album can flaunt their talents and skills as a complete package. They already have the talent and skill; it’s just about how you use it. Besides that, there is the many feature highlights, especially in the realms of production, performance and sound.
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
Drifting Sand by Toast of Botswana
French based alt-psych duo 'Toast of Botswana' have unleashed a swirling sonic behemoth in the guise of their latest single aptly named 'Drifting Sand'. Steeped in hazy reverberating psychedelic incantations their sound echoes through layers of hypnotically charged instrumentation, noisy swathes of percussion and that intensely fragile vocal. Released back in December 2016 'Drifting Sand' is the bands third single and it follows on from 'Vimto' their deliciously psych folk leaning second single released back in August 2016. Definitely ones to watch in 2017.
You can get your hands on 'Drifting Sand' right now by heading over to: toastofbotswana.bandcamp.com
ARTIST: Pastel Coast
RELEASE: Sense EP
RELEASE DATE: 17th October 2016
Plain and simple, straight and true, Sense by the French based dream-pop project Pastel Coast is a neat and enthralling 5/5 EP. When I saw the projects genre to be that of dream-pop, I sighed and wondered whether this would be any different; different to the mass amounts of the genre that are poured out into the public sphere from musicians who think they are truly unique in some various way. Is it different? I’m not sure. Because I started to think as I listened to it; what makes dream-pop good? What makes it an enjoyable and a favourable listening experience? The answer, I started to think, is that if it evokes some sort of emotional response; some kind of ‘connection’ (if you want to get fancy) then it must be of better quality than others. And while I feel that Sense is definitely an original EP, filled with unique and refreshing songs and music, I believe it to be the nostalgic, propounded elements of Pastel Coast's musical and lyrical content that truly makes it a step above the others.
Sense opens with the ideal characteristic sound of the whole EP; the hush roll of waves on a shoreline and the gentle plucking of dream pop tone guitars. This song, ‘Nightfire’, showcases the projects musical landscape and favourite tools for creating soothing, relaxing and dreamy pop music. ‘Nightfire’ centres itself silently around the gentle beat of a drum machine at the back of the mix. Guitars sound light and fluffy; perhaps like the clouds that Pastel Coast are trying to emulate through their music. The sound is drenched in reverb enough so that the vocals and the instruments mix together without being totally audible all the time; which fits well in the music. Altogether I feel the song sounds synthetic; but synthetic in almost a genius way… As though these characteristics do nothing but good for the music. What follows, however, is the best track on the EP. ‘Lifes’ sees Pastel Coast use a more shoegaze texture; they connect this back with the ingredients used at the start of the EP; such as drum machines, heavy reverb, distant but entrancing vocals and simple yet appropriate bass lines. The project also add another gem into the mix; as ‘Lifes’ is where the vocals truly shine. The mesmerizingly beautiful chorus sees the vocals reach high to accompany the guitars in a truly brilliant passage of music. This tight mixture of sound also sees Pastel Coast at their most proffer as the music begins to reek (in a good way) of nostalgia.
‘Synthetic Love’ follows with its lengthy and more pronounced musical structure. The song opens with clear vocals, a steady drum beat and some basic backing instrumentation. It develops, however, over the course of the song, to include a neat synth and heavy, pounding drum machine passage of music. The track reaches its artistic heights with a winding, disco like breakdown in the middle of the song; after which the band slowly plaster things back into one cohesive image at the end of the song. Another truly beautiful and genuinely fantastic song is the aptly titled ‘Don’t Gaze Your Shoes’. By far the most shoegaze Pastel Coast ever broach on Sense, the song appears and projects itself in a much heavier way than others with reverb drenched guitars, more elusive vocals and a slower tempo that could be likened more to gazing at ones shoes than dream pop-ing. The song almost acts as the musical representation of swimming as it soothes; gentle, yet always deep and more often than not layered sounds paddle over the top of others.
Literally everything about Sense EP connects with what I referred to as ‘nostalgia’ in the aforementioned paragraphs. The artist image on the Internet is a colourful photo of somebody walking in the ocean with their guitar; the sky is blue, the water is dark and the whole picture looks like some sort of beautiful oil painting. The EP cover art displays a neatly blended colour pattern, light and full of colours associated with the beach, the ocean and I suppose… The coast? Even the band’s name links in with this dream pop nostalgia beauty, aesthetic. Of course, however, it is the music that links everything together tightly; presenting Sense EP in a neat, good-looking package. The production is almost bordering on lo-fi, which one generally does not associate with shoegaze or dream pop. However the project somehow push this very lo-fi like production quality to the front which somehow adds another gentle element to the mixing on the album. Reverb is heavy, as are the echoed programmed drums and the undercurrent of shoegaze like synths and soundscapes. Thankfully, again, the band use this to their advantage.
The beauty of this EP is immense. So much so at some points I felt like I was listening to Sense while standing on a cove or beach somewhere, ankle deep in the dark sand. And ultimately I feel like that’s why you should listen to this EP; it is a creature of mesmerizing brilliance and attraction, all the while being something you feel has walked you back through the past and placed you somewhere under the sun. Pastel Coast present this image and connect it together through the avenues of production, performance and sound.
RELEASE: Wide Shot EP
RELEASE DATE: 16th September 2016
Post-rock is almost always at its best when it is subtle, delicate, free-form and bordering on ambient music. It should also be noted that other styles are fantastic, but I feel post-rock and ambient music to be kind of next door neighbours. And so when they invite each other over for a barbeque, beautiful and majestic soundscapes and musical textures are made together; harmoniously, slight but somehow always so clever that it remains interesting. On 'Wide Shot', an EP full of such sounds, French based post-rock outfit Tölva deliver refreshing and earnestly beautiful post-rock/ambient songs that are spiced up by a more progressive sound than your normal instrumental outfit. Wide Shot lands beautifully between post-rock art music and the heavier and louder post-metal genre, offering a neat cross breed of genres and sounds.
Wide Shot by Tölva
'Wide Shot' opens with ‘Poveglia’, which uses fade in to a wild degree before introducing the dense yet fine instrumentation on the track. Much like subtle undercurrents of Berlin School of Electronic Music, the band use a light soundscape to introduce the first plucking of a guitar with bright sounds stationed behind and the neat introduction of the bass guitar. By the time the drums enter the mix, a beautiful yet simple guitar chord progression brings the music together. On ‘Poveglia’ the drums tie everything together in one package, allowing tiny blemishes of ambient guitar textures to sneak into the ear space of the listener. ‘Renton’ follows with a much more progressive rock/post-metal sound, built again around the steady yet full percussion of the drums. The guitars sound much heavier, as does the bass guitar, but even over the crunch of prog-instrumentation there is the rhythmic guitar playing that echoes the bands post-rock core. At around the four minute mark the band leans back toward a more ambient sound and then in a way, step-by-step, they crescendo back to the fuller, heavier sound of the beginning of the song.
‘Puzzle’ begins as an interlude of sorts; soundscapes float while tiny bells are plucked in the background of the mix. The trance-like guitars on ‘Puzzle’ allow Wide Shot to sound much like the soundtrack to a wintery, French or Icelandic film score. The EP’s title track ‘Wide Shot’ seeps in with a very distant fade in (much the same as opener ‘Poveglia’) but introduces a more ambient style sound before breaking into a post-metal wave of energy. ‘Wide Shot’ is by far the most epic track on the EP; soaring guitars and melodic soundscapes all conjoin to form a tight and heavier sound. At around the half way point however, the band slide back into their textured, subtle and beautiful form of a more quiet sound. This time, however, the undercurrents of metal run rampart through the slower and quieter parts of the track. The outro, which begins just past the half way point, connects every trick the band have pulled over the course of the EP and throws it at the listener in a fantastic, vast and satisfying way.
Tölva weave enough magic on Wide Shot to make the listener wish it was an entire album; and that’s pretty much one of the only flaws with this EP… The songs on the EP, while lengthy, seem to set up a wider scope for more potential material that could lead into an album that would showcase a fuller and more structural element of the band. For example, the beautiful and engaging interlude type track ‘Puzzle’ seems as if it’s asking to be noticed more. Similarly the first track ‘Poveglia’ seems like an album intro, with its heavy and fading instrumentation, but feels tight and frustrated in the context of the EP. Also while those who enjoy post-rock, progressive rock, ambient music and different types of heavy instrumental music will find this tremendously enjoyable, some listeners may find it too basic or simple for complete appreciation and praise. But, for those willing, this EP is a brilliant, simple and subtle listen. Each track stands on its own comfortably (even the interlude type track of ‘Puzzle’) and reinforces the bands skill and talent throughout. The performances and mixing are solid, fantastic and engaging; the production is clean enough to be appreciated by post-rock fans and heavy enough to be loved by metal listeners alike. Even the album art is impressive, and links back into the core stylistic elements of post-rock, ambient, textured and dense music. It’s fun and full; enjoyable for its production, performances and sound.
'Wide Shot' is available to buy/download right now from tolvaband.bandcamp.com
A brand new track has surfaced by the brilliant Michigan based atmospheric electronic dreampop duo 'Voluptuous Panic' entitled 'Zyva' featuring production & mixing by Human Koala. Recorded in both Paris France & Grand Rapids Michigan the track itself is a shimmering reverb laden affair with beautiful vocals courtesy of the brilliant Gretchen DeVault swimming in Brian J. Bowe's hazy psychedelic guitars & bass with the added bonus of programmed beats & synths courtesy of Paris based Human Koala . It sounds to us like Voluptuous Panic' are back to their best & we cant wait to hear more from them as the summer rumbles on. Check it out:
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You can get your hands on the track right now as a 'Name Your Price' via www.voluptuouspanic.bandcamp.com and do check out their previous releases as well. You will not be disappointed!
You can also hear this brand new track up on continuous rotation on Primal Radio via our 24 hour a day live stream - www.primalradiolive.com