The Pastels The Last Great Wilderness

The most enduring and purely instinctual band to emerge from Scotland’s early ’80s pop renaissance, the Pastels — 21 years old this year — have gradually but assuredly transcended their early (and inaccurate) reputation as wilfully inept, emotionally stunted janglers. In keeping with the nonchalant productivity of founder member Stephen McRobbie and mainstay Katrina Mitchell, this is the Pastels’ first album since 1997’s Illumination. A brief, largely instrumental soundtrack for the British film from which it takes its name, it surely will disappoint those who have anxiously awaited another collection of Pastels pop, but it reveals depths of the duo’s creativity that have never been hinted at before. "With so many of our records, the end result falls short of our expectations,” says McRobbie. "So one of the things that’s most satisfying about this record is that it turned out so close to our intentions. It’s more or less the music we would choose to make at this time.” Perhaps most surprising is that the soundtrack was produced in collaboration with John McEntire (Tortoise, Stereolab), whose proclivity for working with technical, fastidious musicians would seem in sharp contrast to the Pastels’ off-the-cuff methods. "He is very together and tidy and organised, but that is actually very calming for us as musicians,” says McRobbie. "He’s absolutely an expert with sound.” The twinkling, wintry "Wilderness Theme,” ominous "Dark Vincente” and a sweetly naïf cover of Sly Stone’s "Everybody is a Star” justify the band’s confidence. The Last Great Wilderness is both a giant leap and a portent of still greater things to come. (Geographic)