The North and Middle of our currently soggy, storm-prone country experienced a cultural resurgence last year, especially with acts like MONEY, Swim Deep and Peace shifting the spotlight back onto Birmingham and Manchester. It’s not like the region stopped producing exceptional sounds at any point, but the late ’80s/early ’90s halcyon years reached a peak that hadn’t been encroached upon in a long time. Then, out of nowhere, we had golden, gorgeous sounds pouring from the North like tea in Yorkshire. It appears that 2013 is just the beginning. This is a new Renaissance. Patterns, a foursome who met at Manchester University, are seeing that the calibre going into 2014 doesn’t slip.
They’re not strictly Mancunian themselves, with two harking from the Big Smoke and the other two from Wirral, but they formed in the city, and have bonded to create a forward-thinking style of dreampop that’s, at least in part, focused on the past. Yup. They pillage the carrion of the decrepit and the legends of yore, borrowing elements and using them in new ways to craft a style that sits somewhere in the Venn diagram of Two Door Cinema Club, Animal Collective (major inspirations for the outfit) and My Bloody Valentine. Their debut LP, Waking Lines, has had a lengthy gestation period though, ever since our lug ‘oles were treated to their first EP, New Noise, at the arse-end of 2011. Now we have that debut in our sweaty mits, it’s going to be difficult to remember a time without Patterns.
From the get-go, on “The Haze”, Patterns are enticing. There’s a phantasmal flickering of droning synths entangled with the kind of riffs Kitchens Of Distinction would make if they were breathing helium rather than air. It’s a track brimming with the vocal ingenuity of Everything Everything and rollicking guitars; you have a pounding, triumphant heartbeat from the drums and an aura of hope that makes you feel like you can do anything in the world. “Blood” swiftly follows, assuming the role of ‘a kick in the knackers’ as opposed to ‘life-affirming daydream’. This is the big pop showing – there’s still plenty of hazy, woozy, lazy, swoonzy, shoegazey goings-on, but overlayed are the infectious, heart-string yankers that bear resemblance to early White Lies.
It’s not all bombastic sugar and cocaine rainbows though, and as promising as the swaggering entrance is, there comes a point where everything blurs into one big homogeneous gloop. It’s a problem that surely faces many that peddle hypnagogia in its sonic form, and one that dogs Patterns on occasion. Whilst the noises they make are genuinely lovely, like a fleece blanket for the mind, there’s a niggling tendency to become a polished union rather than the standalone dreampop belters they have the propensity for. Some people will probably love this facet of the record, but for others it’ll feel like an unnecessary reliance on a formula – they play it safe when they could snap their comfort zone’s neck and run like the Dickens into the unknown. They’ve clearly got it in them.
Waking Lines is an ambitious premiere, but one that’s not had all it’s misshapen foibles ironed out. Patterns have, however, ensured that they’ll remain inside people’s heads for a considerable time to come.