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ARTIST
TITLE
Contour Lines
FORMAT
CD

LABEL
CATALOG #
GZH 055CD GZH 055CD
GENRE
RELEASE DATE
6/10/2014

Since their inception in 2012, Claire Brentnall and Richard Knox's project has evolved from solo endeavor to fully-realized duo. Starting with 2013's single The Rule, Shield Patterns have shown a maturity and sophistication beyond their years. Spacious soundscapes are scattered with trembling piano phrases, skittering beats and waves of warm keys, all shaped into dark, menacing pop songs by Brentnall's bewitching vocals. Their two singles thus far have already caught the ear of alt-J and Dutch Uncles, both of whom have provided remixes of those singles. Now comes their debut album. Following on from critically-lauded lead single Dust Hung Heavy, Contour Lines carries the listener deeper into their world. Each track is laden with the kind of dark atmospherics most groups take years to unearth. Here, the fragility of Brentnall's early demos remains, but finds itself imbued with a richness of sound that can only come from studious soul-searching and a cathartic creative process. The vulnerability of her intensely personal lyrics is tempered with highly-processed strings, subby bass-lines, and ambient passages that brood as much as they shimmer. Lines between aesthetic and content are blurred, so that singer and song are intertwined. What's remarkable about Contour Lines is how adept the band are at contracting their landscapes as well as expanding upon them. In the largely instrumental "Present State," abrasive electronics cast a claustrophobic shadow across the listener before releasing their grip in subsequent tracks. "WeYouMe" reinstates the album's meditative pace, as the singer reflects against a ghostly backdrop sprinkled with reverb while, elsewhere, layered clarinets compete with discordant drones in "Charon." Each of the album's elements is laid down with the precision of an architect but delivered with the grace of a dancer. And like any good art, repeated rotations reveal different facets.