Album Reviews

Vessels – White Fields And Open Devices

(Cuckundoo) UK release date: 18 August 2008

Sometimes entirely instrumental, at others offeringvocals that are barely discernible amid themulti-layered post rock noise or minimal darkelectronica, it’s hard to decide whether Vessels arean odd prog/industrial hybrid whose time should belong past, or the genuinely new sound of thetwenty-first century.

There is more than a touch of iLiKETRAiNSabout them. Hailing from Leeds, they clearly belong toa scene that has also given us bands such asLaymar, which is no bad thing. Their sound hasthe harsh edge of the industrial landscape about it,but also of wide open wilderness – the rusting factoryat the edge of Sigur Rós‘s virginal white snow.

With more than 100 live shows behind them,including the Leeds Festival, there’s a definite sensethat this is music designed and intended to be playedlive and very loud (at times – at others, such as thefragile Look At That Cloud!, your damaged ear drumswill need to strain to hear them), a sonic assaultthat should leave you physically aware of its presencein the way pioneered by Godspeed You! BlackEmperor, A Silver Mount Zion and their manyspin-offs.

The flipside is that on gentler tracks such as thesuperbly titled An Idle Brain And The Devil’sWorkshop, they show that they’re just as ready to lickthe wounds they’ve just inflicted.

Much of this is no doubt due to the productionefforts of John Congleton, a man also responsible forthe aural assault that is Explosions In TheSky, while the snow-covered Minnesota setting inwhich they recorded the album may well be responsiblefor its sense of space. Because White Fields And OpenDevices lives up to its name: a musical experiencethat has plenty of room to breathe, freeing the bandfrom the physical constraints and claustrophobia oftheir native industrial British north.

From the haunting vocals of Walking Through Wallsto the railroad nightmares of Trois Heures (exactlythe time of day when sounds like this invade attemptsto sleep that are most needed and most doomed tofailure), Vessels have many more dimensions than youmight notice on first listen, sometimes overlayingtheir sonic soundscapes with delicate, almost folkishguitars that half smile, half sneer as they neveractually lead you down the prog-noddling path theythreaten to.

The music they weave always, without fail, staysjust the right side of pretentious, playing with pastconventions and current trends, showing how cleverthey are without showing off. Too melodic to be darkambient, too apologetic to be truly post-industrial,it may not be radio friendly, but that doesn’t make itperfect music for lonely nights, long drives on emptyroads, and something to put on in the dead of winterto drown out the sounds of the broken boiler. Long maythe muffled explosions continue.

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More on Vessels
Vessels – Dilate
Vessels – Helioscope
Vessels – Retreat
Vessels – White Fields And Open Devices