A collaboration between Japan’s Tenniscoats and Scotland’s Pastels would seem like not only a natural fit but also a pretty effortless task. Around a small songwriting core, both duos build sparsely structured tunes that are generously flushed out with the supplemental instrumentation of fellow travelers. But mostly, they’re both proponents of crafty, even-tempered tunefulness. Not too much of any given element, melodies to spare. And on Two Sunsets, these two groups blend seamlessly.
Given all the recording was done on their home turf, with the assistance of Glaswegian chums like Teenage Fanclub’s Gerard Love and Norman Blake, plus perennial contributor Bill Wells, it would seem that the Pastels would have the upper hand here. And to an extent they do. Two Sunsets splits the difference between the reflective, somewhat downcast fog of their soundtrack for The Last Great Wilderness in 2003 and the enveloping, ramshackle warmth of their last proper album, 2001’s seemingly seminal Illumination – unhurried, hushed and prone to charmingly slurred, slightly spacey intervals. But the pervasively quicksilver pinprick notes here, watery tone trails there, crisp tendrils of jangling calm everywhere is identifiably the work of Tenniscoat guitarist Ueno. And his bandmate Saya’s clear-throated, precise lead contrasts nicely with Pastels’ Stephen and Katrina’s drowsily faltering turns on the mic.
The jostling between the tensile Japanese and the leisurely Scots make for an album with short jolts of energy and lapses of slow secretion. With its gentle interplay of dotted guitars and dashed bass, "Vivid Youth" sets into a exotica-tinged repose. In fact, much of Two Sunsets lilts with an affecting sumptuousness somewhat new to the Pastels. The Jesus and Mary Chain’s "About You,” the closer of their rain-fixated Darklands, is transformed into a smoldering swirl of radiant grandeur. No "god-almighty gloom" here. "Mou Mou Rainbow" has a similar span and may be the closest, by way of a J Spaceman/Sonic Boom-like chain of harmonic trails, that either band will ever get to a torch song. It’s a fitting near-farewell for this disarmingly tender and enjoyable album.