Thursday, March 24, 2011
[pitchfork.com] If you want to keep things simple, Helioscope, the second album from Leeds quintet Vessels, should be filed in the post-rock section along with Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. If you want to be accurate, however, then there's some explaining to do. Vessels are fond of the stirring (and often unsubtle) dynamic shifts that the aforementioned groups pioneered, but their bombing runs aren't deployed in quite the same manner. While their quieter moments sometimes center around gently plucked guitar figures, they can just as often involve other sounds and textures. Helioscope also proves Vessels capable of crunching numbers as efficiently as the most studious math-rockers. And while using vocals doesn't automatically make one's post-rock less post-y, Vessels' infrequent (though effective) use of them is just another weapon in their well-stocked arsenal.
It takes a little while for Helioscope to show its cards, though. Based solely on the first few minutes of "Monoform", Vessels would seem like another perfectly OK instrumental rock group. The arpeggiating synth and nimble, insistent drumming bring to mind recent Maserati or older Trans Am, and the switch of focus from the heavy bass tones to a rolling xylophone in the second "verse" is a nice twist. As the song progresses, however, it becomes clear that Vessels are more interested in taking a road less traveled, opting to eschew the expected crescendo for some scenic meandering. It's only after mucking around for about three minutes-- including a minute-long segue into what seems like a different song altogether-- that they decide to pump up the volume and blow out the speakers. Delaying the presumably inevitable climax allows that pro-forma soft-to-loud move to actually surprise, which is an achievement in itself.
Thankfully, Helioscope offers plenty of pleasant surprises. Vessels can switch from constructing limber instrumentals around pleasantly warped guitar samples ("Later Than You Think") to a track like "Art/Choke", where they unload relentless hard-hitting haymakers worthy of a heavier rock group. On the album's first vocal-centric track, "Recur", two group members sing against each other while the music underneath soars and swells like something you'd expect from mid-90s emo-affiliated band Juno. When vocals take the lead again, it's on "Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute", with the gentle quaver of Brighton-based singer-songwriter Stuart Warwick at the mic. The end result of that collaboration is a shimmering tune that gives Elbow a run for their post-Radiohead money. Even when Helioscope offers a more traditionally post-rock track, such as "The Trap", Vessels' way with arrangements and sonics produces something refreshingly out of the ordinary.
— David Raposa, March 18, 2011
Posted by Dan Goldin at 1:29 AM