The beats that drive these nine songs jolt the music's surface into shockwave-like ripples—an effect captured by one song title, "Stabbings In Fluid." But De May's drums are almost always minimal and sometimes even non-existent. When they are there, they usually come in simple, metronomic patterns that intensify the tracks like punctuation marks. At other times, rhythm becomes implicit, as De Mey gathers waves of sound to mark time through momentum shifts and tonal climaxes.
Drawn With Shadow Pens might seem influenced by soundtracks, and in some ways it is. De Mey is as experienced with scoring films and dance pieces as making breakbeats and DJing, and he knows how to arrange lines into narrative arcs. Take "Ostia": with its percussive repetition and volume-driving crescendo, it could accompany an epic war film. As with the best scores, each turn here serves De Mey's project as a whole, conveying emotion and entrancing the listener.
Because De Mey populates his spacious pieces with such clear, up-front sounds, lots of them are instantly familiar. There are helicopter-esque chops and morse-code-like bleeps, plus swaths of siren-worthy whirr and deep bass plunges. The way De Mey contextualizes and re-aligns these tropes, with a minimalist's precision and a maximalist's intensity, turns what could be stale into something bracingly fresh. It makes Drawn With Shadow Pens a beautifully cohesive world of its own.