PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Vessels: White Fields and Open Devices

Vessels' debut is positively brimming with ideas, some more innovative than others, but all executed with the flair and assurance of an outfit who have imitation far from mind.


Vessels

White Fields and Open Devices

Label: Cuckundoo
US Release Date: 2008-07-18
UK Release Date: 2008-07-18
Amazon
iTunes

It’s entirely likely that there are no longer any adjectives at all which one can use to accurately and appropriately describe the music that has come to lay claim to the ‘post-rock’ handle without sounding utterly, exhaustedly clichéd. Epic, glacial, bombastic, majestic, cacophonous, soaring, spectral, glimmering, transcendent -- all reside in the corner of the lexicon marked ‘Explosions in the Sky’, but also in the spot that a music reviewer dare use only tentatively, knowing full well that the Internet is jam-packed with overzealous scribes all eager to compare the latest Sigur Rós release to some beautiful snow-capped mountain range.

Which makes writing about Vessels unduly tricky, because the five-piece are thoroughly deserving of the accolades, superlatives, and metaphors that have already lost their impact in being generously dished out to all and sundry. To call a band epic (Vessels are) is now tantamount to saying they can be bloody loud at times (Vessels can be) and that they know where their effects pedals are (Vessels do). Which isn’t saying very much at all.

What’s more, many of the ingredients Vessels chuck into their debut are of the same ilk as those employed by far more mediocre outfits, to a degree that to catalogue them -- manic guitar screams, finger-tangling time changes, reverb drenched chords, dark electronica, and sparsely employed vocals -- paints a picture of a band keen to emulate their more esteemed peers (Explosions, Mogwai, Battles, Russian Circles, Pelican -- you've heard it all before, right?) rather than plough their own experimental field in a land littered with the corpses of second-rate instrumental rock bands. But it's the way that the separate, familiar pieces of that picture slot together that places Vessels on a far more prestigious pedestal than most upstarts can lay claim to.

White Fields and Open Devices is positively brimming with ideas, some more innovative than others, but all executed with the flair and assurance of an outfit who have antecedent imitation far from mind. Stylistically, the album flitters at whim in a way that would suggest immaturity were it not for the wholly considered and demonstrably capable arrangements.

With this in mind, "Altered Beast", a barely recognisable reworking of an earlier EP track, is an almost impossibly perfect entrée. Segueing clearly but smoothly from brooding synth and stabs of bass to intricate riffery and ultimately massive squalls of guitar, the piece is seven minutes long and makes no bones about its heritage, but throughout remains utterly enthralling and, as a whole, positively unique. Likewise, the pounding drums and chiming guitars of "Look at That Cloud!" aren't exactly groundbreaking, but the aural eruption two minutes from time is genuinely stunning, regardless of whether you saw it coming or not.

And that's just White Fields's more prosaic moments. Astute as they may be at atmospheric instrumental rock, Vessels' longevity seems assured due primarily to the other facets of their canon. "A Hundred Times in Every Direction" sees the first vocals of the album, and while its plaintive, softly uttered harmonies bring a welcome emotional aspect, it is, perversely, the way they are mercilessly destroyed by a blisteringly loud guitar break that brings the most exhilaration. By comparison, both "Walking Through the Walls" and "Yuki" are subtle, measured experiments in branching out. The latter offers swells of piano beneath skittering beats, and is an exercise in restraint compared the rest of the album, despite its increased fervency towards its tail end, while "Walking Through the Walls" sees a continuation of this electro element but adjoins it to some sweet acoustic fingerpicking and a mellow vocal.

And it's this combination of experimentation and sheer aplomb that makes Vessels such an exciting prospect. For a mature outfit, White Fields would be a sterling effort. As the Leeds quintet are debutants, the record is nothing short of a revelation.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.