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Vessel VesselOrder Of Noise

8.6 / 10

Before landing on Tri Angle, Seb Gainsborourgh released a few important titles on labels in the margins of dubstep and house. His service record contains some valuable vinyls on Astro:Dynamics (specialists in foggy beats and ambient explorations), and on some of the centres of activity in his native Bristol: classic dubstep imprint Immerse, and Left Blank, the platform co-directed by Throwing Snow, on which he enriched his sound with some taciturn house and techno. With all that in mind, it's odd that he ended up on Tri Angle for this debut album, instead of, for instance, on a label more in tune with the majestically swerving and atmospheric sound of Vessel (not to be confused with the Vessel on the Expanding label), such as Modern Love, or Workshop. Because what we hear here is not the spectral kind of R&B that has been the label's trademark sound until now, or the nervous incursions into juke or comatose hip-hop of people like Howse and Evian Christ. But maybe it's precisely that difference that confirms that, if there's one thing truly important on Tri Angle, its texture before structure.

The texture of “Order Of Noise” is on the hypothetical intersection between the crepuscular dubstep of Burial, the naked and non-Euclidian techno of Actress, and the calmly tense ambient of Echospace. Gainsborough's strongpoint is not the voices (even though the record opens with one, on “Vizar”; there are hardly any vocals after that), but the porous and moist surfaces he creates his rhythmical valleys and mountain rigs on. In itself, the album is perfectly structured and thought through: after the brief introduction (suggesting influences of R&B and dramatic dream-pop, which refers to both his past as a producer and the present of his current label) comes “Stillborn Dub”, another track indicating an intention (the voice, a lament, very Burial-like), only to end up being something else: a piece of sinister, metallic dub, tense in a Sheffield-like way (the long shadow of Cabaret Voltaire) rather than melancholic in the vein of the Bristol sound. And once the punch is served (I caress you with one hand and hit you with the other), “Order Of Noise” unfolds like an unexpected album, with insolent beauty and calm tension. Which is very Tri Angle-like, by the way. But a Tri Angle that, for once, stops looking to the United States and puts on a European sad face.

“Images Of Bodies” is the first techno fragment and it puts us in known territory. Specifically, on this particular track, with his work on Left Blank, when he connected fully with the deep sound of Kassem Mosse, David Moufang and Actress - with the added value of a nervous club feel, his personal signature. “Silten” combines the same elements, but according to a different recipe: a swirling bass line, a naked and mechanical melody, liquid synths and a muffled sound, moaning, like Burial in Detroit. On “Lache”, Andy Stott comes to mind, just like on “Aries”, one of the highlights of the LP, something like deep-house buried in a kind of holy funerary ritual, splendorous with morbid beauty.

Another important nuance, refining Vessel's impact and importance even more, is that black and catastrophist tone which, subtly and apparently unintentionally, dyes “Order Of Noise” from start to finish. While other recent titles on Tri Angle, such as the superb “Held” by Holy Other, or Balam Acab's inaugural “Wander / Wonder”, started from Burial, only to flow into an ocean of hope, Vessel seems to be more at ease on the banks of that river. It's not a catastrophist record, nor does it leave you behind with an idea of despair, but it refers to things that have more to do with tension than redemption: on “2 Moon Dub”, the influence of Bristol dub from the 80s (Mark Stewart) is obvious, with those heavy black bass lines cushioned by light synths. Furthermore, “Scarletta” starts with rough, industrial chaos, before it becomes the kind of friendly-syncopated song Radiohead have tried to make more than once, with fluctuating success. And then there's the final part, in which the spirit of English techno of 20 years ago is invoked; “Plane Curves” and “Court Of Lions” are very B12-like, while “Temples” and “Villane” are more like Aphex Twin's ambient material on R&S. This album needs to be listened to many times in order to get out everything that's in it, and, as commonplace as it may sound (doesn't mean it's not true), it's one of the key debut LPs of the year, the first important chapter of a body of work that will grow to dimensions we still don't know yet, because the sky may be too low for Vessel.

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