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: Pastel Coast
RELEASE: Sense EP
RELEASE DATE: 17th October 2016
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
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.
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.