Pascal Pinon - Twosomeness
When you think about it, Pascal Pinon is probably the perfect band name for Icelandic teenage twin sisters Jófríður and Ásthildur. Okay, so they're not a literally two-headed entity like Pasqual Pinon, the Two-Headed Mexican, but the way their identities – and let's say their voices are their identities for the sake of a laboured metaphor - meld together on Twosomeness, their second album of dreamy folk music, suggests their musical incarnation is more about keeping Pascal Pinon as a singular entity, rather than showing two distinct musicians working together. And it turns out this theorising is close to the actual concept behind their new album: "less lonesome, but twosome, unified in sound".
If it wasn't for the unified sound, Twosomeness might not be much to write home about. Much of the beauty of the album comes from the way the sisters' voices interact: they become either one beguiling, harmonious noise or one voice soars angelically above the other, while the glacial electronics and spare acoustic and analogue instruments provide a subtle yet steady instrumental platform. The real difference between the early-teens debut album and this sophomore effort probably comes partly from added maturity but also via the fine production from Sigur Rós and Jóns cohort Alex Somers: while not exactly adding muscle, you can hear a stronger Pascal Pinon from the moment the drum machine kicks in on album opener 'Ekki Vanmeta'. Once that's joined by layers of icy synths and the twins harmonising in Icelandic, you are reminded of the kind of emotional swell trademarked by Jonsi and co, but with a real feminine warmth replacing their fellow Icelanders’ penchant for skyscraping anthems. Things get even better with 'One Thing', not especially because the lyrics are in English and you get some sense of subject or theme, but more because it's just another fine example of the Northern European alt-pop genius we've been so accustomed to hearing over the past few years.
Looking across Twosomeness as a whole it's really hard to find much fault with Pascal Pinon's music: 'Somewhere' is an atmospheric piano-led ballad, while 'Evgeny Kissin' (named, I assume, after the Russian child prodigy pianist but also gives the sisters the chance to use the line "Evgeny kissin', on my cheek") is reminiscent of the sacred secular choral music crafted by the brilliant Julianna Barwick, and a track like 'Kertio' shows that away from the perfect vocals and harmonies, the sisters have developed a real ear for how a track should be constructed for maximum impact. Sure, there's not really any change in pace or tone but when it leads to a record of such high quality then you're really on shaky ground complaining about a lack of variety - I defy anyone to listen to the lovely ambient folk stylings of 'Good and Bad Things' and come away feeling anything other than love for Pascal Pinon.
The frightening thing about all this is that Jófríður and Ásthildur are still only eighteen years old; if Twosomeness is an example of what they can achieve when they're not even out of their teens then just think of the further brilliance we can anticipate in the coming years. For now, this is a great start to 2013.