[sic] Magazine

Shield Patterns – Mirror Breathing

Mirroring is a scientifically proven technique for developing rapport with another person. To match the others rhythms, stance, posture without notice, subconsciously puts them at their ease. These are skills that can be learned by the likes of Law Enforcement Agencies, pick-up artists, sales folk, politicians and mentalists. Or put more simply, seducers. Mirrored breathing is as much a part of this as any open stance or uncrossed legs. They say that newborn babies match the breathing patterns of their mothers.

Another, different connotation might be that old trick of holding a mirror to the face of person to check whether they are still alive. Even the shallowest of breathing produces a steaming effect on the glass. It is a trope beloved of old crime films.

Manchester based duo Shield Patterns return with their second album and follow up to 2014’s Contour Lines. I cannot be sure in my mind whether they are checking to see if I’m still an inhabitant of This Mortal Coil or out to seduce me. Mirror Breathing deliciously conjures all possibilities and more. Richard Knox, who runs the Gizeh label and Claire Brentnall combine to great effect once again on this sophomore collection. As we might expect from the label showrunner, Shield Patterns integrate elements of IDM, folk, ambient and chamber. I perceive a slight shift away from the trip hop that permeated Contour Lines. Mirror Breathing is a more delicate, fragile experience. I actually find myself holding my breath at certain moments; such are the intricacies on display.

There’s a dark heart at the center of this album. That said ‘This Temporary Place’ returns to the chilled trip hop vibe of the first album. The truly great pieces are found at the edges. ‘Cerulean’ is mighty. A worth successor to ‘Dust Hung Heavy’. ‘On Needing’ takes us back to breathing patterns again, this time the controlled slow breath of a diver. It is very effective. Special mention goes to the ending duo of ’Anymore’ and ‘Glow’, two majestic pieces of music.

Without doubt Brentnall will get Kate Bush comparisons thrown at her all day long. No escaping the vocal similarity there. We mentioned this in our review for Contour Lines yet actually that’s a hugely positive reference point for any singer. The difference, musically and perhaps persona –wise is that Kate always came across as a real, flesh and blood woman. Theatrical? Certainly. Sexy? As Hell. Maybe even a bit bonkers, in an endearing way. But real. Claire Brentnall sounds like something ‘other’, be it Angel, Siren or phantom. Something unknowable. More Cathy than Kate perhaps?

Shield Patterns should theoretically occupy a kind of central ground for Gizeh but if fact they have created a corner of that label’s universe which is all of their own. It is an ash covered place of spectral memories and somber incantation. I don’t know if you need to be alive or dead to reach that place but I want to go. I’m seduced.

Find Out More

Contour Lines