Like a zeppelin embarking on a turbulent flight, Shelling evokes the sensation of floating airborne while still comprising of weighty and rather brutish parts, without its seams ripping open under its own self-imposed incongruence. It’s an illusion realised using the looser, echo-saturated melodic rushes that run through the gaps; granite blocks of electronic beat feel somewhat softer with synthesiser honey dripped over them, while Aya’s half-whispered vocal appears to levitate the blobs of harmonic bulk that murmur around the mid frequencies. Shelling is a machine of hard and regimented movement underneath, and it’s only the shoegaze duvet draped over the top that creates smooth edges where there are none.
But while its sound may deceive with its phantom grace, the songwriting within is pure pop: immediate and uncomplicated in its initial catchy connection, tentatively romantic in its melodic narratives, and quivering with a mixture of first date nerves and sombre, self-deprecating introspection. A neat demonstration of Shelling’s core emotional spectrum arrives around the halfway mark in the transition from “Over” to “Milky Way”: a dry jangle of melody jostles with distorted keyboards during the former, cycling through the same two chords as though swinging pendulum-like between two opposing streams of thought, while a solemn and lonely acceptance bubbles through the ballad tempo and cradling vocal harmonies of the latter. Combining these ideas with the album’s production, and Shelling reads like a blossoming love story just waiting to be painted into reality, only hindered by the embryo of anxiety and doubt that encases the album’s graceful, beautiful protagonist.