Tristen Shields – Migrations / 2004 Datawaslost Records / 10 Tracks / http://www.tristenshields.com / http://www.datawaslost.net / Reviewed 20 September 2004
Ambient dreamy-pop coming from Cincinnati, Migrations is a disc that automatically sounds as if someone is playing it off an LP – there is a certain about of hiss that adds to the ambiance of the disc. The first track “Glowbox” is an example of a whispered-out track with an earthy synthline pressing the tempo to combat the tendency of the track to lag. Each track on Migrations feeds into the rest of the disc, making it slightly difficult to pull out specific tracks from the entire body. Tristen Shields is the perfect extension of the dude with acoustic soundtrack – each track is purely that, with a few electric googahs to distract the audience into thinking that Tristen is the epitomy of originality. There is nothing wrong with this minor deception, as the style of rock that Tristen plays is perfectly suitable for hot summer days out at the frathouse – immediately drawing parallels with John Maher and Brant Christopher, Tristen has to be a crowd-pleaser when ey takes ey’s act out on the road.
The nuances that are teased out in a track like “Rocket Pop Summer Free” are immense, starting from something as simple as the infection of the title by Shields and work themselves to the complexity as the interplay between the violin and the piano on the track. However, even if there are the heights of innovation found in “Rocket Pop Summer Free”, there are also the depths of trying to make a too-cluttered track work, as evidenced by the follow-up track “Sunbeams”. The acoustic guitar just loses out to the odd nature of the electronic blips on track, forever throwing off the ear of any serious listener.
Migrations is a solidly arranged and mastered album, able to combine the sterility of a recording studio with the personality of a packed house at a coffe shop. No better combination could be found for Tristen, and even if there are moments when the electronic takes too much away from the humanity of Shields. One of the most solid tracks on the disc is also one of the most organic of tracks, that being “Equations”. In this track, a harmonica and a violin mingle themselves along with Shields’ guitar to make a backward-looking down-home track that skillfully elicits a country air. Tristen is able to combine the frat-rock of a Rich Hardesty with the nu-altcountry of Lucero to make a fulfilling album, and I have no doubt that fame will come in time.
Top Tracks: Equations, Glowbox