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Pop Music Review

Delicate, Deliberate Charms From Pastels

April 10, 1998|NATALIE NICHOLS

The members of the Pastels are venerable ambassadors from a tiny alternate pop universe, inhabited by the likes of Olympia's Beat Happening and fellow Glasgow band the Vaselines, where obscurity is encouraged and deliberate clumsiness somehow ends up sounding charming.

Those charms were in full effect on Wednesday at Spaceland during the Pastels' first L.A. appearance ever, in spite of an unflattering sound mix that threatened to turn the music's delicate textures to mud.

Drawn from the band's current album, "Illumination," and earlier works, the hourlong set was permeated by a pleasantly droning quality that recalled the Velvet Underground's off-kilter fusion of spaciness and syncopation.

Willfully introverted numbers such as "Rough Riders" and "Fragile Gang" conjured vaguely intimate moods, as the quintet built up rich sheets of sound anchored by repetitive bass lines and minimal, crashing drums. Sketchy guitar melodies spread like watercolors, while the wispy, slightly off-key vocal harmonies, rather than being distracting, enhanced the music's dreaminess.

Hunched over their instruments, these musicians were unlikely alchemists, mysteriously managing to make music both elusive and substantive, experimental yet undeniably pop.


* The Pastels play tonight at No Life Records, 7209 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 6 p.m. Free. (213) 845-1200.

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