I had actually heard of the band VESSELS previously and though far from being an expert in these matters, rightly or wrongly I had always associated them with Mogwai styled music – which is why I had not paid them much / any attention! Then when I read that the same bloke who has produced Explosions In The Sky and Modest Mouse had produced ‘Helioscope’, I kinda knew I was probably on the right track.
But sometimes when we’re forced into doing something we really don’t fancy, we are pleasantly surprised. So it was with me and the latest Mogwai album as it happens. And again in this instance with ‘Helioscope.’
I was immediately taken with the opening number, ‘Monoform,’ and in particular the space created by the track to give an almost ‘lead’ role to the drums. The (instrumental) track races along in a manner that I least expected for its near seven-minute duration. So too did the second track, ‘The Trap.’ Another without vocals, but just as compelling a listen as it’s predecessor, it takes on a harder edge in the final minute or so before its conclusion. Again, this one stretches over the six-minute mark.
Recur,’ is the first to feature vocals, which make me think (against all my wishes and instincts) of Radiohead in places. ‘Later Than You Think’ sticks with the format of giving the drums their head although in this instance the keyboards and guitars usurp them in the final couple of minutes.
So far so good – I’m pleasantly surprised. There is a beautiful but strong ‘attitude’ to VESSELS’ music. It doesn’t quite fit any specific genre and the music itself is quite unpredictable in the directions it takes.
Of course, it’s well enough accepted that I’m pretty shallow when it comes to my personal choices of music. I have the attention span of a rampant gnat, and really anything that is more technically aware than say, The Ramones’ ‘Sheena is a Punk Rocker,’ or ‘Caroline’ by Status Quo, can be a bit of an arduous challenge for me.
That’s not to say I can’t admire and enjoy the carefully crafted sonically built wall of noise that rises up out of the seven and a half minutes of ‘All Our Ends. Or the quirkiness mixed in with the dark and brooding guitars and bass of ‘Art / Choke.’
The atmospheric ‘Heal’ is a pleasant little track and differs from the others in that a) it’s only two and a half minutes in length, and b) it doesn’t give itself over to the drums.
I can admire the sheer majesty and ‘professional’ sound of this album. There’s a definite ring about it – something that makes VESSELS stand out as a very accomplished and credible band.
Overall ‘Helioscope’ is going to appeal massively to a certain type of music lover. Some tracks may entice others like me to pay some attention. But ultimately, it’s perhaps just a little too deep for a shallow music lover like me.
(Released through Cuckundoo Records on 12th April 2011 – USA)
(7.5 / 10)