2nd September 2016 – Gizeh Records
04. On Needing
05. Blue Shutters
07. This Temporary Place
08. Balance & Scatter
4am is usually a time for existential questions, sneaky cheese on toast, or mindlessly wandering the web scouring for new music to occupy your restless brain. For me, the discovery of Shield Patterns just so happens to be the culmination of all three of these activities. Unearthing such a gem at this hour is a fortuitous incident, and after devouring their first full length and the subsequent EP, it was a joy to see the Mancunian duo had something new on the horizon: a new album called Mirror Breathing.
There are thousands of bedroom projects out there, all utilising the same sparse and meandering delivery to create some vapid and effervescent waste of time that gets tossed up on Bandcamp and quickly forgotten about. This isn’t the case with Shield Patterns; after their masterful, if not fully matured debut Contour Lines, it was clear to see they were an exciting prospect. An emotive and breathless glimmer, Mirror Breathing is a night bloomer; recalling a city after hours, with contrasting cold white light and warming street lamps feeling both empty and welcoming at the same time.
Mirror Breathing is a variable smorgasbord of texture and depth; the ethereally shimmering opener “Dusk” wisps and swirls spectral vocal lines around hypnotising and restless electronic beats. There is a vibrancy here that continues throughout the record, and as “Dusk” gives way to “Cerulean” this buoyancy evolves into a kind of contented violence; its frenetic over-layered electronics and shallow drums feel foreboding and immediately dangerous, yet slowly softened at the edges by Claire Brentnall’s innocently high vocal.
“Balance & Scatter” provides a welcome change in direction; through its less restrained jazz soaked influence it perpetuates that earlier dynamism with an immediate air of unpredictability – like a city in chaos at night – and it’s with this unpredictability that the record reasserts itself into the senses. The piano driven “Anymore” nods very firmly at Björk whilst still retaining Shield Patterns’ distinct voice.
Whilst it lives and breathes with all the vibrancy for which you could hope, it feels slightly more grounded and slightly less romanticised than you’d expect, but through honest and cleverly crafted soundscapes; a real treat for your late-night wanderings.