Regretfully my poor time keeping kept me from seeing the opening three-piece, Vasquez. From what I have heard, their music has a high tempo and is rather frenzied. There are occasional touches of electronic chaos mixed into brash drums, largely distorted guitar parts and throaty bass lines.
I did arrive in time for Sing-Kill-Worth who played post-rock-y music with the usual influences coming through. It was perfectly listenable.
Stuart Warwick (see also: Jacob’s Stories) provided a performance that alternated between a “blend of dark, ethereal, melancholic pop music” and comic utterances. His set was fuelled by the reading of a book entitled, ‘Manhood: The Rise and Fall of the Penis’. A copy of the book was displayed at centre stage for the duration of the performance; Warwick had his keyboard positioned to one side. From this book, the crowd was informed of the etymology of the word ‘orchid’ and of a bizarre theory of Leonardo de Vinci regarding the source of semen in the male body. This humour jarred wonderfully with the sombre tone of Warwick’s songs. The performance was technically intriguing. Looping was used to good effect to perpetuate sequences of vocals, piano parts and microphone-tapped rhythm sections. Thus, although Warwick claims to be an artist and writer first and a musician thereafter, he has been around long enough to develop interesting and moving stage performances, such that one could be forgiven for assuming musical performance to be his forté.
Vessels are touring to support their forthcoming album, ‘Helioscope’; the current set list reflects this by containing only one track from the first album. ‘An Idle Brain and the Devil’s Workshop’ was greeted with an enthusiasm that reflected its familiarity to the crowd. The room was filled to bursting with sound; I felt entirely immersed in the sound waves, as one can be in such compact venues!
In the newer songs, the band continues to exhibit affecting grooves, brilliantly executed drumming, soaring high-note sequences, and an excellent use of what must now be a trademark array of dance moves and facial expressions. Oh, and frequent, sometimes mid-song, instrument switching, of course! What seems to be different is an increased use of vocals and synths/keys. Harmonies in particular were carried out with aplomb by the band and Warwick returned to the stage with his smooth and haunting vocals for ‘Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute’. Additionally, there seems to be plenty of darker moments. Relatively light songs might give way to what felt like a moodier, fractious atmosphere. I was reminded of a similar experience I had when listening to some songs from the fourth L.P. of recent tour partners, Oceansize. The increased use of keys on the new songs is very apparent and exemplified by the extent to which ‘An Idle Brain…’ stood out. One is not hit by such a thick wall of sound, but by a greater variety of sounds. Thus, if set lists become more balanced in time, a wider range of senses are likely to be tickled at future gigs.
Vessels closed with a monstrous tune entitled ‘All Our Ends’, which has left me wondering what an earth the album-closer, ‘Spun Infinite’, can sound like. On reflection, my instinct has decided that it absolutely has to be quieter affair, but I must wait for the album’s release to find out. To imagine a bigger song to close the album seems slightly absurd!
I was pleased to spend my evening at the Captain’s Rest. Vessels were ably supported and the crowd was given a taste for the headliner’s new material in the best possible way thanks to soundboard-extraordinaire, Doug.
Helioscope is available now on Cuckundoo Records.