|Vessels - 'Helioscope' (Cuckundoo Records)|
|Written by Russ P|
|Tuesday, 26 April 2011 05:00|
Only a few months ago, as we neared the end of 2010, I was reviewing 'Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute' and hearing Vessels for the first time. My appetite was whetted and Vessels were on my list of bands to look out for in 2011. And I didn't have long to wait until the band's second album 'Helioscope' arrived and literally threw itself into my CD player. And, without further ado the results are in - it's a doozy.
On the one hand I'm tempted to call Vessels an instrumental band and lump them in with bands like Bohren & Der Club Of Gore and The Necks. On the other hand they're something of a half and half band, like Shellac, who throw in the occasional vocal number. Though this provides some kind of musical context for what Vessels are all about, the band's sound is as individual as each of the aforementioned bands.
What strikes me about the band is the depth and breadth of sounds that they use. Even the drums, usually the unchanging backbone of rock music, go through as many incarnations as Doctor Who. 'Monoform' being a case in point where the drums begin with a hard gated gritty compression before opening out into a clean bristling beat. Halfway through they transform into a dark and murky thump then emerge into a deep and rich African tinged beat which sounds so beautiful. Kudos to everyone - the band and to the producer John Congleton.
It's no surprise perhaps that as a highly textured and a highly rhythmic band that drummer Tim Mitchell naturally becomes a focus of attention for listeners. Even if you're not a muso, or a drummer, you can't help but be drawn in by the immense talent that the man possesses. And if you are a drummer...well you can just put Tim Mitchell right up there alongside Neil Peart, Bill Bruford, Billy Cobham and Stuart Copeland.
As a whole unit the band thrive on creating different levels of ambience and intensity through any means necessary. Whether it be the guitars, the synths or the drums. In the intro to 'The Trap' for instance it is the guitars which provide the percussive impetus before the drums take over and the guitars move into the background where they weave their distant and spacey textures.
Of the vocal tracks the previously reviewed 'Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute' is figuratively and literally the album's centrepiece dividing the album cleanly in two. Earlier in the tracklisting is 'Recur' which, given my preoccupation with Stewart Copeland, reminds me distantly of The Police and 'Synchronicity'.
'Helioscope' is a deeply satisfying album. You can easily get lost in the richness of the sounds and completely space out under a pair of headphones. It's not all relaxing and trippy though. There are moments of Mars Volta madness lurking here and there in tracks such as 'Art/Choke' and 'The Trap' which get hard and heavy smack bang in the centre of the band's otherwise quieter moments.