Somewhere along the journey between trip hop and electronics, Shield Patterns split in half. Their shadows walked in one direction, their physical personas walked in the other one. Which way did each took? Impossible to know, because the result of said journey is Contour Lines, an album that refuses to stick to any of the previously mentioned genres and bilocates itself instead.
The gorgeous instrumental arrangements that Richard Knox, who previously mesmerised this reviewer with The Rustle of The Stars, lays to the feet of Claire Brentnall are like a gust of wind pushing dandelion seeds in a sunny afternoon. Contour Lines refuses to ever set feet on the ground. It’s too much of a free spirit to even acknowledge the existence of “gravity.”
Contour Lines feels like those little sounds you get in your head while you are in a state of vigil. You are not really asleep, not really awake, somewhere in between you start to hallucinate notes and drones. ‘Carve the dirt’, with some slight 80s moments, spirals slowly out of the speakers; a cool breeze seeps through the tightest knit sweater. ‘Ghost Worlds’ combines a gorgeous piano sequence that hides in the distance while a steel drum does the call and response routine with the synth arrangements. It’s baroque but you can tell each of the elements apart. The thing is: you don’t want to unravel them at all as they are comfy.
If it sounds like a sweet mushy album, I must warn you: it isn’t. It’s dark like a Grimm brothers’ tale. ‘Present State’ is almost instrumental, with Brentnall‘s voice cooes away and delivers a quick verse and ghosts away while the industrial sounds take over. Night has fallen over the enchanted forest and now the critters that hunt have come out. ‘Charon’, the closing track, is equally unnerving, starting with jazz notes that moan and wail over a sweeping drone. The pandemonium yields away, replaced by a taciturn approach. I want to say it’s minimalistic, but the unseen animal has scurried away before I could properly tag it. Left a good impression, though.
I want to compare them to someone who’s previously travelled this path. Bat For Lashes and Nedry could be a few choices. Maybe Massive Attack at their more sparsest (100th Window, natch.) I’ll be obscure and compare them to the extremely overlooked Gazelle, a band that deals an equally ethereal shade of music out of a thousand little wave generators and filters. Turn the lights off and listen to this gem by Shield Patterns.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López