Swiss Portrait is the project of Michael Kay Terrance, who recorded, mixed and mastered his latest record Familiar Patterns at the comfort of their spare bedroom apartment in Edinburgh. Through DIY magic (and skillful execution) Terrance has created a dream-pop world of bliss and escapism. The music has an expressionist style to it, more interested in the emotions than laying down concrete meaning for each melodic movement or lyric. As for the latter, the words accompanying Swiss Portraits shoegaze melodies are sparse and full of repetition. This adds a hypnotic effect similar to that of a mantra or an incantation, perfect for full immersion into this world of hazy textures and complex emotions.
Opener “Find My Way” repeats the title as its mantra. The rhythms are restless and there’s an urgency to its guitar lines that seemingly move back and forth through the mix. “Help me find my way” soon becomes a tense quest as it is repeated at the climactic peak, with the lyric “back to you” serving as a satisfying resolution to the melody. It’s these creative little tricks that make Terrence’s writing intriguing despite its minimalist nature.
As for instruments and textures, there simply is not enough praise I could put into words at how wonderful this ethereal world is. “Between Waves” is beset with churning tides of wailing guitars, Terrence’s reverb-soaked vocals creates the effect that they’re stuck underwater, making this song about calling out for help feel all the more real. “Cassette” has the best hooks and melodies of the record with a main melody and rhythm evoking a sense of wonder. “Patagonia” comes in at a close second, which most resembles a pop-rock song albeit one that’s crystallized into a world of glimmering amber and glass.
Another great thing about this record is its consistency, there’s hardly any dull or skip-worthy tracks here. “Breathless” feels closer to jangle pop with lush and gorgeous textures. “Coastal Showers” takes us back to an aqueous world with sunny guitars headlining the track. The closing “Burn Out” is a tad sharper than the rest with Terrance making use of bolder colors and punchier drums.
Familiar Patterns is all in all a bed of wonderful sound and an inspiring image of what DIY pop can achieve. Take a gander and listen to Swiss Portrait’s sounds below: