reviewed by Kaitlin Ruether
Imagine the piercing guitar lines of Dinosaur Jr. meeting the sublime melodies of Said the Whale. Now stop imagining and press play on Pastel Blank’s debut release, Knots. The band takes a distinct approach to crafting their music: they have three principle songwriters and believe that structure and boundaries can foster creativity, and so create within the inspiration of 80s and 90s alt rock. The five songs on Knots showcase a range of tricks gleaned from alternative rock’s turbulent past, but utilize the scene of the present to keep fresh.
Every song in this collection has something epic to it. Whether it be a structure of volume drop offs and resurgences (see: “Running Back to Ether” and “Knots”), or the way the guitar finds a way to play multiple roles (the swirling guitar slides itself into complex plucking and stands out on “Also, As Well”), Knots uses structure and exploration to create tracks that become experiences. Each song swells into multiple parts, never settling into something familiar.
Pastel Blank manage the twofold talent of complex instrumentation and a poetic sense of lyric writing. “I’m a shut-in / In love with the outdoors / A glass of water in the downpour,” Angus Watt sings on album opener “Present (Belongings).” The vocals are often presented with distance, but — somewhat ironically — come closest on “At Arms Length,” when the use of effects creates a sense of range that elsewhere on the record is owned by the guitar. And of course, no discussion of Pastel Blank’s sense of structure is complete without noting the way the drums move from the role of pace-keeper to exclamation point — particularly on “Also, As Well.”
Pastel Blank are allowing the roots of alternative rock to structure their songwriting, and — just as they expected — the challenge of boundaries has fuelled form experimentation that brings a contemporary flare to the genre.
Top Tracks: “Present (Belongings)”; “Also, As Well”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)