Shield Patterns’ music can be at once intriguing and a little underwhelming. Though the Manchester duo of Claire Brentnall and Richard Knox borrow heavily from elements of trip-hop, they pull their own music into even darker places, shaping it into something that hints at enveloping and foreboding atmospheres, and creating a spacious and dramatic sound out of lush and warm arrangements.
Brentnall‘s silky and haunting vocals have earned a few comparisons to contemporaries like FKA Twigs, but she’s far from being a pale imitator. She has her own distinct voice and uses it as more than just a vehicle for her dark symbolic words, allowing it to function as another element of the music itself. On ‘Bruises’ and ‘Anymore,’ where the backdrops are reduced to gentle pianos and lingering electronics, she fills the void with an ethereal delivery that doesn’t clutter or overwhelm the otherwise fragile beauty of her surroundings.
Where Shield Patterns continue falling short though is their seeming reluctance to experiment much outside of their framework. On ‘Balance & Scatter,’ one of the few moments where they truly push boundaries a little, bleating horns and sparse drumbeats give the music an almost avant quality, proving they can still remain within their comfort zone while coloring in the spaces around them in more interesting ways. Elsewhere, songs like ‘Dusk,’ ‘Sleepdrunk,’ and ‘On Needing’ are all fairly straight ahead takes on elecetronica/trip-hop with Brentnall‘s voice acting as a beacon of sorts peering through slow tumbling beats and layers of misty haze.
The music feels appropriate for slipping into the recesses of your subconscious, but it doesn’t offer much to hold on to beyond that. The songs are capable of being sweeping and attractive, and Brentnall‘s words can paint some chilling pictures. Despite that, and for all of the meticulousness of Knox‘s production, nothing here is distinct enough to fully lure you in and hold your attention the way that it should. And that amounts to what is probably the lone disappointment from an otherwise beautifully rendered album like ‘Mirror Breathing.’
This Shield Patterns article was written by Jeremy Monroe, a GIGsoup contributor.