[sic] Magazine

Vessels – White Fields and Open Devices

Aug 18th 2008, Cuckundoo Records
Review by M Henaghan

As Sigur Rós continue their fascination with trying to out-Coldplay Chris Martin and co on their recent, uninspired ‘Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust’ album, they’ve left a vacancy at the pinnacle of the big, bold and brash epic rock genre that needs to be filled fast.. And Vessels may just be the very band to oblige. This Leeds-based quintet have spent the best part of three years touring the length and breadth of the UK honing their sound, while purposefully adding subtle components to their arsenal. Now they’ve hit pay dirt on full-length debut ‘White Fields and Open Devices’.

Roping in John Congleton, of Explosions in the Sky fame, for production duties is clearly a shrewd move. An experienced technician in the dynamics of the core of Vessels sound, Congleton adds his absorbing touch and expertise to re-workings of fan favourites ‘Happy Accident’ and ‘Look at that Cloud!’. The former, a euphoric slab of electro infused post-rock, utilises crackling beats, distorted guitar and spaghetti western harmonica to devastating effect, like 65Daysofstatic in a head on collision with Souvenir’s Young America. While those who don’t go weak at the knees during the avalanching crescendo of the latter may want to check they still have a pulse.

Eclecticism is the key to this record. Vessels, like a world class football team, can operate in any number of formations without hindering the result. ‘Altered Beast’ is a blistering opener, a dizzying amalgam of math rhythms, taut guitar interplay and sci-fi synths. ‘A Hundred Times in Every Direction’ is equally as venomous, especially for a lead single, yet there’s appeal to the bittersweet harmonies that soar above the thundering percussion and rasping guitar.

The band change styles quicker than you can say Sigur Rós have lost the plot since they signed to Geffen. ‘Walking Through the Walls’ builds its melody through forlorn acoustic guitar and soulful vocals, upon clipped electronic beats that will appease fans of Type Records (with Mokira and RJ Valeo particularly springing to mind). ‘Treus Heurs’ finds the band changing tact again, operating in a dark and desolate industrial landscape of gliding guitar arpeggios, metallic scree and digital detritus.

Far from losing cohesion or interrupting the overall flow of the record, each of the 10 tracks featured here are distinctively Vessels, whether they are in a post-rock, math-rock or electronic mood. It’s fitting that the band sign off with a triptych of their most commercially appealing tracks, for this young outfit are clearly intent on going places. The poignant, piano-led ‘Yuki’, the melancholic, yet infectious ‘Two Words & a Gesture’ and the expansive ‘Wave Those Arms, Airmen’ all suitably and uniquely add to the impact of this record. There’s a real sense of accomplishment and sense of depth to Vessels debut, with their disregard for genre restrictions and compositional poise shining in tandem with an exuberant and passionate, youthful edge.

Now over to you Jonsi!