This is a review of "White Fields and Open Devices" recorded by Vessels. The review was written by Nick Kearns in 2008.
“You’re going home in a Yorkshire ambiance!” Vessels are five young men with a grand, epic vision that resonates throughout their debut album “White Fields and Open Devices”. Although firmly ensconced in the none-more-vague category of “experimental” music, this is a release awash with ideas, ambition and a creative vision that allows the outfit to bring to life ideas from the deftest of nuances.
The band’s decision to record in Minnesota under the tutelage of John Congleton - a producer noted for his knob-fiddling exploits with the likes of Explosions In the Sky and The Appleseed Cast - has resulted in a reassuringly epic, expansive sound that retains plenty of warmth. Just listen to the myriad of different sounds vying for attention during the opening of Happy Accident as an example - electronic bloops and beeps carry themselves between the gentle lilt of glacial guitars before the track builds into a gratifying crescendo. Perhaps it would be pertinent not to mention that the track features a spoken word sample from the famous American painter Bob Ross - a chap who was fond of proclaiming “We don’t make mistakes, we just have happy little accidents”.
Fans of Vessels’ earlier recorded output will recognise several tracks here; previous singles “A Hundred times In Every Direction” and “Yuki” are both present, the latter of which especially benefits from its re-recording, with the fragile and delicate dreaminess of the delayed piano passages a joy to behold. However, listeners may be most familiar with the soaring, relentlessly epic live favourite “Look at that Cloud!”, a song bold in scope, strong of heart and heavy in guitars. And there are lots of guitars; the band have even been known to bring in a couple of guest guitarists just for this song while performing it live. Admittedly the song does stray close to the grandiose steadily-building-crescendo-of-guitars format so popularised by Explosions, however the song carries itself with so much passion and wide-eyed enthusiasm that it should move even the most hardened post-rock cynic.
It would be wrong to dwell too much on previous efforts though, especially given the quality of newer songs such as album opener “Altered Beast” - apparently a reference to how the track has changed its structure and sound since its earlier incarnation as “The Beast.” An ominous synth and bass-driven opening gives way to Don Cabellero-esque guitars that jive over a fiddly math-rock structure- the sum of whose parts are realised after several listens. This progressive and more free-form side of Vessels is also evident through the intricately syncopated riffing on “An Idle Brain and the Devils Workshop”, a song that segues from frantic jazzy metal into an calmer, arpeggiated instrumental section. Elsewhere, “Walking Through Walls” displays an interesting mixture of electronic drum patterns and squelches set against a fingerpicked acoustic guitar pattern.
“White Fields and Open Devices” is an album packed with intimacy, emotion, power and invention. It will probably need a few listens before all the subtleties and nuances that have been put into this recording really come to the fore for the listener, and as such is not recommended for persons with a short attention span or a limited amount of patience. An excellent album that is a demanding, but rewarding listen.