In an instance of curious serendipity, this writer went to see a play at Battersea Arts Centre called Vessel in the same week as reviewing Queen Of Golden Dogs. It’s curious because both play and record induced a similar sense of being overcome, by a cacophony of voices in one instance and the energetic sonic restlessness of the other.
Vessel’s Queen Of Golden Dogs often feels like a multitude of people vying for attention. But whereas the play’s unforgiving pitch made it difficult to process the themes and issues, Vessel allows breathing space to digest what’s come before. Just. Nevertheless, they have made a very full record, which is perhaps a result of self-enforced exile to rural Wales to make the album: a maelstrom of noise as a means to fill the void.
Vessel’s third record is inspired by chamber music. Although the fusion of post-classical and electronic music isn’t new, their fevered approach is certainly unique. The sheer voracity with which they throw themselves at each composition really stretches beyond murky electronics of 2012’s Order Of Noise and 2014’s Punish/Honey.
The straining strings of Fantasma (For Jasmine) arch and yield before ripped electronic tempos usurp the melancholy acoustics. This tendency to match jarring moods and sonics is indicative of the record’s overall mission to undermine expectations and dissolve boundaries. Similarly, Argo (For Maggie) features dramatic, sweeping strings that usher in sheets of punctuating synths and an almost tribal beat. The most marked contrast to Vessel’s previous work is the verve and sense of joy apparent in Queen Of Golden Dogs’ tracks, compared to the dark industrial modulations of their previous work.
Vessel rarely let the almost histrionic pitch of the record drop, with tracks like Glory Glory (For Tippi) feeling like they threw the whole toolbox at it and wound it all up with the most dizzying tempo. But there are gentler moments such as the abstract, treated, and unearthly vocal on Zahir (For Eleanor), and the a cappella Torno-me eles e nau-eu (For Remedios) offers a much needed balmy interlude.
That said, the bombast of Paplu Love That Moves the Sun ultimately steals the show. As the brightest and most optimistic sounding track, it’s also a bonkers collage of vocal effects, synthesised sounds, chimes, and well, you name it. It’s the sound of an artist truly relishing every moment of creation, and the record’s shining crown.
That’s not to say these strikingly gallivanting compositions add up to a unified whole, but it’s a wild ride if at times an overloaded one. Queen Of Golden Dogs is Vessel at their most direct and bold, and the result is often overwhelming, sometimes confusing, and always fascinating. If this is what a period flying solo in Cymru yields we should all probably follow suit.