Shield Patterns / Graveyard Tapes, Assembly Roxy, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details

The dark rises quick in Edinburgh, and never was that truer as this balmy, sun-drenched afternoon is suddenly swamped by crepuscular gloom and fast-flowing harr. The sea mist rolls in, obliterating all warmth and clear skies in its path.

So, it feels apt on this Thursday evening to take shelter in the old church premises of Assembly Roxy to initially see a group going under the moniker of Graveyard Tapes.

This Edinburgh-based trio weld heart-on-sleeve 3AM bedsit confessionals with filthy smears of analogue circuitry and smoothly functional laptop electronics. The Graveyard Tapes title suits them well and it’s easy to imagine stumbling across an unspooling C90 cassette with no markings strewn amongst lopsided headstones. Pick it up, head home to press play on your battered old boombox and these twilit soul-baring sessions may just unwind hauntingly from the speakers like glitch-strewn drizzle for lost souls to take solace in.

The junkyard jumble of makeshift equipment which makes up Graveyard Tapes’ instrumentation is in complete contrast to Shield Patterns’ set-up. A bank of gleaming electronics panels stands centre-stage, lights blinking and flickering like a starship console primed for imminent blast-off.

The Manchester duo of Claire Brentnall and Richard Nox construct a spectral miasma combining electro-pop motifs with odd dalliances into electroacoustic territory, most notably on the patches of sound where Brentnall’s clarinet pierces the juddering dub tremors and synthesiser washes.

Brentnall’s vocal yelps and body movements can’t help being reminiscent of Kate Bush or Stevie Nicks transplanted into a slightly malevolent dubstep setting. Yet it somehow works in an efficient, if oddly soulless, manner as Nox keeps his head down crouched in darkness above gleaming hi-tech buttons and Brentnall moves delicately around microphone and keys, both equal partners in the Shield Patterns operation.

If it occasionally feels a bit too smooth with great untapped reserves of pain bubbling just under the surface sheen, then it’s also quite possible that is the entire point. Shield Patterns are for the moments where emotions are cleared and numbed like unwanted images wiped clean from a tablet screen.