“Hideki Kaji - Japanese pop star, joyous person and old friend, invited me to write a song with him not long ago. I wrote lyrics and sang a vocal and Nick Palmer (Directorsound) contributed too. That original version is on Hideki's album Löv Songs. We recorded this Pastels version too, a confident half-cover, but not before Hideki faxed over the tabs of his beautiful, intricate guitar chords, and we (not me) curled our fingers into them. At the time I was thinking a lot about Ukichiro Nakaya and Andy Goldsworthy and I guess those formed the theme - astonishing snow art in contrasting scales. And scientific science."
People had very firm opinions on the Pastels in their 1980s heyday. For their (gently) pathologically devoted fans, the Glasgow indie cult heroes were natural heirs to Orange Juice, purveyors of some of the sweetest, most winsome sounds around. For their more vociferous detractors, the mop-topped, charity shop-jacketed Stephen Pastel was the quintessential twee drip. In 2013, it's hard to imagine such strong views either way, but their first full-length album in 16 years displays an unexpected new maturity. The group's trademark guitar pop has been fleshed out with violin, flute and even synthesiser. Drummer Katrina Mitchell's vocals lead the aching Secret Music and poppier Check My Heart. The loveliest track here, Summer Rain, is seemingly a trademark dewy, nostalgic love song, but reveals a subtle environmental message. Night Time Made Us verges on self-parody as Pastel sings the joys of daytime walks in cemeteries (but fleeing as night falls) – but there's nothing here that would really have anyone calling for national service. Indeed, Slow Summits may trigger a revival, albeit of the quietest, gentlest kind.
The evocative opening line of "Secret Music", "Rain's falling on a European street", sets the scene for a series of shadowy observations, reveries and reminiscences in songs like "Night Time Made Us" and "Wrong Light", while the flute and trumpet tints behind the gentle guitar figures make for an aptly pastel sound, akin to indie-rock channelling Bacharach. Stephen McRobbie's wan vocals remain an acquired taste, but the way the music lightly folds in dark and light, innocence and experience, reserve and euphoria, lifts the likes of "Slow Summits" and "Summer Rain".
Hier kann man "Slow Summits" aktuell komplett hören.