Tristen Shields - "Migrations"
(Datawaslost 2004, DWL041)

Uploaded to Aural Innovations: June 2004

A strangely compelling mixture of ethereal folk-rock, indie dream pop and post-Orb electronica, Migrations is Tristan Shields’ fiercely eclectic debut on the Cincinnati-based Datawaslost label. Though Shields’ influences are often transparent, they’re never obtrusive, and the expert playing of cellist Adrianne Wininsky, pianist Jason Wells and synthesist Michael Bond (who also co-produced) nicely complements the spare, atmospheric arrangements. Shields’ clear, crystalline acoustic guitar and wonderfully raspy contralto voice dominates most of the songs, though he also plays electric piano, synthesizer and a very Dylan-esque harmonica on several pieces. “Glowbox,” the opening track on Migrations, is an arresting fusion of Signified-era Porcupine Tree neo-psychedelia (replete with megaphone filtered vocals) and the shimmering kaleidoscopic lyricism of Throwing Muses—an eccentric but engaging collision of styles to be sure. “Rocket Pop Summer Free” reaches near anthemic proportions, effortlessly conjuring up memories of lost childhood and its long forgotten joys with some elegant piano/cello interplay and elusively beautiful lyrics reminiscent of the Cocteau Twins. Both “Sunbeams” and “Brand New Eyes” explore Shields’ obvious fascination with the symbiosis of folk-based melodicism and ambient/jungle/trance influenced rhythms and textures. It’s a cunning experiment, and Shields’ obvious sincerity in consummating such a strange marriage of opposing forces authenticates and ultimately validates this bold venture. The album’s coda, “Migrations/The Nightingale,” is also the disc’s longest track (at 8:53) and appropriately brings Shields’ alchemy of the heart and the beat to an almost apocalyptic close, with its airy display of dreamy xylophone chiming delicately through the muted synth pads and Shields’ restrained acoustic strumming. An aching and mournful hymn of the dream of flight—outwardly through the sky but inwardly through the soul, as well—“Migrations/The Nightingale” soars on wings of regret toward the hard-won realization of our sometimes sad, but sometimes joyous earthbound existence. Migrations is an exhilarating prologue to what will hopefully be many more chapters in a brave new songbook.

For more information you can visit the Tristen Shields web site at:
Migrations is distrubed by Datawaslost. You can visit their web site at:
Email Tristen Shields at: or Datawaslost at:
Contact via snail mail c/o Datawaslost; PO Box 19401; Cincinnati, OH 45219.

Reviewed by Charles Van de Kree

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