The world of post-rock is an odd one. Being a younger genre than most, there are very few hard and fast rules as to what exactly constitutes post-rock. Vessels are one of the English variants of this fascinating musical sub-sect, and we take their new studio album, The Great Distraction in for a listen…
Forming in Leeds back in 2005 and this being their fourth studio album, Vessels are not the most prolific of bands out there. But it only takes a brief listen to their work to understand why. It is engineered and recorded well, with a heavy dose of precision, each work is released when it is good and ready. But is the new studio album worth the wait?
Being both the opening track and the longest on the album (already itself an impressive time-length of 59 minutes), “Mobilise” is our introduction to the world of Vessels’ new album. Being ‘electronic’ post-rock you’d quite easily be forgiven for drawing parallels between this group and another British band who’ve dipped their feet into the post-rock pool; Enter Shikari. However, where the latter are renowned for their lyrics, politics and wild, less restrained instrumentals, Vessels couldn’t be further from this.
The full 8:37 of the track is painstakingly structured and timed. The electronica element of the music easily outweighs any guitar-rock influence hidden throughout the track and leaves you with a track that Deadmau5 himself would be proud of.
Yet despite all of this, you still can’t bring yourself to quite call it fully electronic. There is something in its blood that stops it being a club beat, no matter how much synth is loaded into the track, and it’s difficult to put your finger on it.
There is some excellent collaborative work scattered across the album as well. “Deflect the Light” comes in with a contribution by The Flaming Lips, loaded up with dreamscape vocals and some seriously retro MIDI-synth all underlined by a rocky drum beat, keeping us just tethered to the world of rock.
My personal favourite song on the track listing is “Gløwer”. At just under 8 minutes, it’s one of the longer ones on the album. It may stray a bit too far from the roots of rock, but it does what it does so well I can’t be annoyed with it. With a pulsating bass line throughout and shoegaze-y vocals lilting amongst the synth guitars, it’s just a joy to listen to. A close second, and much shorter, is “Everyone is Falling”, a slower, far more EDM-influenced track that may not be catchy in the traditional sense but it definitely earned a few replays.
That’s not to say that the entire album manages to remain quite so well tied to the roots of post-rock. Tracks such as “Position” and “Radiart” (gaplessly linked) could easily be mistaken for something from The Chemical Brothers back catalogue. This is no bad thing – provided you like The Chemical Brothers, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t? – but it can make the album feel a little confused. Although as previously mentioned, the realm of post-rock is far from small, straying too far from any base within it, can make you feel lost.
Another track tucked away near the end is “Radio Decay”. The song is great, there’s no two ways about it, it’s an excellent track, with a massive bass line, sparkling synths and an evocative, world-building soundscape. It can however, like much of the album, feel a little at odds with previous Vessels work such as Art/Choke?
But the question remains; is it good post-rock? Whereas other post-rock bands such as If Trees Could Talk and Godspeed You! Black Emperor take influence from metal, hard rock and other, generally ‘rockier’ parts of the umbrella for their music, does that mean electronics can’t feature?
In a word: no. They can and absolutely do. Whether you agree or not, Sigur Ros are classified under the same umbrella as Vessels and the other aforementioned groups, and they’re hardly thrashing around with brutal, thundering guitars.
Being a blanket term and with controversy courting the classification of the genre, it’s hard to define whether The Great Distraction constitutes “good” post rock. But is it good music? Yes; it just strays from its own beaten path at points and by doing so, fails to measure up to their own benchmark from previous work.
Author: Steve, Southgate store