Vessels - Helioscope (Cuckundoo)

Leeds rockers excel on their second record.

Released Mar 21st, 2011 via Cuckundoo / By Jack Sibley
Vessels - Helioscope (Cuckundoo) Sitting down to an album like this with tags and barriers set up like ‘post-rock’ and ‘intelligent music’, it’s only natural to expect a record full of inaccessibly epic canyon-spanning instrumentals, but Vessels seem to have avoided this entirely. Yes there’s a lot to chew on if you’re inclined to do some serious listening but it quite easily works as a set of relaxing background tracks with even a few standard-structure songs thrown in for good measure. ‘Recur’ is a laid-back song with a clear verse-chorus structure and first single ‘Meatman, Piano Turner, Prostitute’ has a melancholic vocal reminiscent of Massive Attack.

But to latch onto these elements would be to miss the point somewhat. Whichever way you look at it, Vessels love their sprawling, ambient instrumentals approximately as much as bears love hunny. Not that these are unapproachable in any way – it would be easy for any listener to melt blissfully and unthinkingly into a track like ‘Later Than You Think’ – but on observation with a critical magnifying glass, a deeper beauty comes to light.

The rich textures of this entire album come across as unearthly and almost create a fantasy world in the listener’s mind. Washes of synth mixed with syncopated rhythmic hits in far-off time signatures throw out projections of dimensions just dissimilar to our own (not unlike the strange town featured on the cover art). Take ‘Art/Choke’ for instance – the theme for the track is laid out instantly in a chain of hard-distorted synth jerks. This theme is tossed between band members like a hot potato with slight changes every time. Layers are added as thin as air with each repetition and before you know it you’re flung headfirst into the dimension they’ve built for you. Maybe this is what gives Vessels their transportative feel. They introduce a theme and by the time you’re acquainted it has moved, and then moved again, and then moved again, until you’ve chased it to their own magnificently constructed world.

Helioscope has a crossover ability that is almost unquestionable and should impress musos as much as it will entertain the layman. With the skill of a sculptor, Vessels have carved out a work of art that is as immaculately defined as it is enchantingly mystical.