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There is often a lot to be said for cold production and breathy, distant vocals. Artists like Purity Ring and Blue Hawaii have been hitting the proverbial nail on the head in recent years, with many since trying and often failing to recreate the same sound of solace in isolation that the aforementioned perfected. Manchester-duo Shield Patterns, despite lauding themselves praise and remixes from Art-rock heavyweights Alt-J and Dutch Uncles for their early singles, are unfortunately one of these artists who have failed to develop their own take on the sound on debut album, Contour Lines.

On the surface, all the aesthetic components that are needed are there. Minimalist and interspersed beats, airy vocals set slightly further back in the mix and the odd synth flurry are all present and correct, but for some reason the end result isn't the sum of its parts. Something is missing, something big. That thing is a soul. No matter how honest Claire Bretnall's vocals sound or how skittering those beats might be, they are superficial, and what becomes most noticeable is an overriding sense of cold, dry emptiness. Even if intentional, it has left Contour Lines without a heart and no distinguishing feature that Shield Patterns can call their own.

Take 'Shade' for example. Ominous synths reside over vocals that aren't in tune, (not that there is one), while dark, brooding beats slowly come to the fore. That shouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but the sense of emptiness leaves the track feeling like more of a depressed musing than an actual song. Similar can be said for 'The Rule', which is like a poor soundtrack to some Matrix-esque Sci-Fi, and with 'Present State', an industrial, cold robotic gaze into deep space.

There is one or two moments that give glimpses as to what Shield Patterns could be. Lead single 'Dust Hung Heavy' works because of its more regular beats and the other well layered percussive elements surrounding them. Tracks like this are more brief respites than saving graces, however, and fail to make Contour Lines anything more than a cold, misplaced attempt at heartfelt minimalism.

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