Review Summary: The sun never sets on the British empire.
Vessels have an uncanny ability to pair together things that normally do not go together. White Fields and Open Devices
. “An Idle Brain and the Devil's Workshop.” John Congleton (producer of Explosions in the Sky) and a high bass mix. Tangible melodies and mathy rhythms. The list goes on. From the constantly impressive Leeds music scene (These Monsters, Paul Marshall), Vessels most importantly combine typical post-rock paradigms with originality and excitement.
Perhaps originality isn't quite the right word. They do not compose anything that is unheard of when one looks at each individual aspect, but the combination of all these aspects makes something new and enjoyable. From song to song, Vessels prove that they have a versatility that no post-rock record of the year can stand up to. From the math rock of “Altered Beast” to the piano ballad “Yuki” to “Look at That Cloud!”, which basically says “*** you EITS, we're better than you” in one fell swoop, White Field and Open Devices
keeps its listeners interested and engaged.
The album begins with three of the best songs on the album, all done in completely different styles. As mentioned, “Altered Beast” takes their core sound and puts a math rock influence on it. Unlike most math rock, however, the song is completely fluid with no awkward transitions between riffs. The song's climax puts a tangible groove to the song, as if the band has finally put their feet on firm ground. Rim clicks work as a segue into “A Hundred Times in Every Direction”, which uses that opening to rhythmically develop the first half of the song instead of using melodic development. For the first time on the album, the band uses vocals for their main melodies. While vocals appear on nearly half the album, they hardly steal the limelight from the instruments. Much like Laura on Radio Swan Is Down, they blend with the music to make a larger, more varied sound. “A Hundred Times...” is followed by “Happy Accident”, which once again changes the style. Glitchy electronics make a subtle appearance, and the song demonstrates in full form the band's mastery of the quiet-loud formula.
Many albums start strong like this, but few can finish the job. White Fields and Open Devices
does just that. Continuing its well-developed flow, the middle of the album falls into a dreamy lull, capitalized upon by “Walking Through Walls.” Once again using vocals, it never reaches any sort of climax. Instead, it offers a break from the typical post-rock formula that, admittedly, the band uses to full effect. This break makes “Look at That Cloud!”, easily the most stereotypical, derivative song on the album, actually effective. Its climax, which actually clips the EQ and sounds like the shattering of eardrums, justifies the wait created by the middle of the album. Despite the formulaic style of “Look at That Cloud!”, other songs, such as its successor “Yuki”, are much more experimental. “Yuki” is the most vocal-led song on the album, but once it starts growing, the vocals fade away and it sounds something more like a Kashiwa Daisuke piece. Glitchy electronic drums complement the beautiful piano theme, and suddenly, it seems that Vessels can do more than surprise the listener with a sudden surge of volume.
White Fields and Open Devices
is simply one of those albums that is well-composed and well-executed. The band may not be remembered for innovations or experiments, but post-rock fans will note the exceptional performances on the album. Given this is only their debut, and songs like “Yuki” hint at something incredible, Vessels may have more to say, especially since they composed most of these songs before 2008. Remarkably, they tied them all together to make an incredibly cohesive album. “Look at That Cloud!” and “Yuki” sound perfect next to each other, but they were not originally designed to do that. Despite its hour duration, the album is listenable from end to end, and good for both post-rock veterans and those unfamiliar with the genre.