Even without knowing it, I came across Vessel‘s work last year. Under the name Baba Yaga, alongside Kähn, the hypnotic grooves of Effigy featured on the sixth A Future Without sampler. That label is run by Ross Tones, aka Throwing Snow, and now he, together with John Connon, has started a new label called Left_Blank. The fact that his labels are called A Future Without and Left Blank gives a huge indication towards the free-thinking and non-restrictive ethos of both his music and that of the acts he signs. There’s a fascinating interview with the man at Awkward Movements, in which his open and honest discussions about advertising and technology highlight his eagerness to push new sounds in as many directions as possible. But I’m not here to talk about Throwing Snow.
Over three very different tracks Vessel, who’s also part of Bristol’s Young Echo crew, displays an impressive grasp of growling synths, cut-up vocals and shuffling beats. Opener “Ton” is a barrage of nervous energy, a fusion of claps, minor basslines, floating effects that sound like bouncing raindrops, and a kitchen-sink style use of any and every percussive element. This conflation of sounds never once veers into ADHD territory, rather presenting a fragmented yet ultimately unified barrage of sonic textures. If this sounds ridiculous, bear in mind that I’ve now listened to this track some seven times and can think of no better way to describe it. It’s not often I’m verbally stumped, but in this case I’m very much glad for it.
“Blushes” is, simply, wondrous. Burial-style garage beats at 116bpm, think the slower work of Floating Points and FaltyDL only with a more menacing touch, the darker side of downtempo. Over the course of nearly two minutes the main kick is gradually EQed into its full glory, while droning chords and rippling percussion frolic about. The final movement is preceded by a series of almost cheeky clicks and a synth line that threatens to take it into meandering territory but is cut off almost as soon as it starts. Fading away into nothingness, the whole piece is haunting yet unobtrusive.
The flow of the EP is almost interrupted by the appearance of Punch Drunk boss Peverelist – his remix of “Nylon Sunset” appearing before the original itself. High-pitched strings instil a sense of dread that is only heightened by the rattling percussion, almost like the Come To Daddy kids are announcing their arrival on your block. Despite the considerable disparity in tempo, the mood isn’t that far off from his own Dance Til The Police Come, which, if his Soundcloud is anything to go by, is an affront to the much-maligned Criminal Justice Act of 1994. The lack of resolution found in this remix sets me on edge, as we await from start to finish a steady pattern of beats. Hi-hats and cymbals abound, as do other peripheral percussive elements, but the lightness of the beats present, coupled with the siren-like strings and cavernous synths, lend this one an air of frenzy and trepidation. Peverelist sure knows how to capture a mood.
And then comes the original. The same high-pitched strings and rattling percussion, yet this one is overflowing with funk. A rising bassline that takes the lead above all other elements, this one jams hard. That steel-bar-on-a-set-of-railings sound carries a much less ominous and more musical effect here, and when the bassline gives way to a series of warm, repetitive chords that never last as long as you expect them to you’re allowed to bask in the almost triumphant mood that surrounds you. It’s a testament to both producer and remixer that such a breadth of experience can be captured using the same sonic elements, and it’s a wise choice to close the release with the celebratory original rather than the panic-stricken remix.
The EP is released on May 16, but to tide you over the good people at XLR8R have dropped a 192 of Ton, while blog fam Sonic Router just published a lengthy interview with the man together with an exclusive mix that moves from Delia Derbyshire through to Actress’ remix of Panda Bear, closing with Space Dimension Controller.