Review: Vessel – Order of Noise

Vessel first came to our attention with the stunning “Nylon Sunset” EP on left_blank last year. One of the year’s highlights, it caught our eye on the back of a delectable remix from Peverelist, but stayed with us on account of the original tracks’ ingenuity and innovation. A second release, the bashfully titled “Standard” EP, followed on left_blank this year, but for the purposes of releasing an album the Brighton-based producer was snapped up by indie superstars Tri Angle. That album, “Order of Noise” is perfectly titled, summing up the tightly controlled barrage of sonic elements that defines his brand of music. It’s dance music that’s for headphones, intricate electronica with a groove.

Opening with a moody vignette that’s dripping with drifting vocals reminiscent of, depending on how long your memory is, the ethereal harmonies of Enya and Clannad, or the mid-00s of noodling of Spooky could be a dangerous ploy, but “Vizar” is ominous enough to keep you interested and never descends to the level of pastiche. “Stillborn Dub“, sounding for all the world like a recording of a rainswept alley in “Blade Runner”-era LA, with its creaking and clanking percussion, dour synths and ominous wobble. Like the opening track, it’s punctuated throughout by breathy, guttural vocals, while underground sewage systems pump and gurgle turgid basslines deep down below. It’s a truly unsettling yet rich listen, and adds to the intriguing levels of dread already permeating our senses just minutes into this album.

Stream: Vessel – Stillborn Dub (Tri_Angle Records)

Throbbing basslines propel “Image of Bodies“, which jams like the soundtrack to an underwater house party – it’s indicative of Vessel’s complicated relationship with house and techno. Sure, it bangs and grooves in all the right ways, but there’s always an unsettling edge to the proceedings, from the repeated sirens and the unexpected emphasis of the beats to the way he seems to use that dark bassline as the main theme, before giving way to downward-swirling, unnaturally computerised synths. “Lache” takes us back to the underground with its undulating groove, another sensuous take on house. It meanders along (relatively) gently with a funk-laden bassline that jams until classic chords clash with stilted bleeps to lend a heightened air of frenzy to this track.

2 Moon Dub” is a definite standout, a bombastic beast of a track that defies categorisation of any kind – it’s the Vessel way. Its half-time leanings hint at dubstep but it’s too awkward for the dancefloor. The bass lead is thrilling, and shocking sharp blasts of treble demand your attention at the end of each phrase, leaving you wondering what’s next. “Scarletta” calls to mind the work of Boards of Canada, an act that could be seen as a sonic reference point for Vessel, using as they did the combination of esoteric sounds and melodies with familiar tempos and rhythms. Noisy frequencies and skittering percussion fight for attention, taking over from more simple explorations in sound, languid chords that glide by effortlessly. It’s one of the gentlest tracks on the album, an odd thing to say of a track that’s so fraught with crackling tension.

It’s little more than 100 seconds long, but “Temples” is another confusing listen. Ostensibly a hip-hop tempo jam doped up with sci-fi squelches and gargantuan chords, these are rudely interrupted by rattling percussion that catches the listener off guard, seemingly in the realm of another tempo, when in fact it’s so heavily snycopated it just seems, well, wrong. But it’s not. Check your head, you’re not hearing things. The album draws to a close with “Villaine“, a dark, “Twin Peaks” tribute, driven by those yearning Laura Palmer-type chords, more rain-soaked battery, and topped off with some indiscipherable sonic warbling – is it a human, is it a machine, does it matter? It’s a thrilling, beautiful and most importantly appropriate end to an album riven with such darkness, in that such a tribute places itself in the company of such a dark yet celebrated part of our culture. We shouldn’t be too surprised if Vessel ever goes into producing film scores. For now, we should be happy to enjoy his rich take on the dark underbelly of what we call dance music.

Stream: Vessel – Court Of Lions (Tri_Angle Records)

Vessel – Order of Noise is out on Tri Angle on October 15.

Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ...