Vessels. Well, I got to know/see them in 2010 during their tour with Oceansize. Incredible live band. They played a few songs off Helioscope as well. The one I remembered best was ‘Monoform’ because during that wicked song Peter Wright crushed the keyboard down to the bottom, which was quite fun to see/hear etc. The day after the show he also wrote about this ever-so memorable incident on the vessels homepage. As masters of the English Language those chaps most definitely could describe it loads better than I could with my miserable school English, so if you really want to read about this and maybe have a laugh, check out their website.
So anyway, let’s get to my review (which I guess nobody is interested in..but, whatever)
I’m going to keep the comparisons to the band’s other releases to a minimum level since I want to regard Helioscope irrelatively and may review their other stuff too, sometime.
The Album consists of 9 songs and its total running time is 48:17, which first seemed to me a bit too short for this band’s standards (with their first LP containing 10 songs running a total time of 63 minutes) but it is as it turns out more than enough. It is the band’s sophomore LP after a wonderful debut called ‘White Fields And Open Devices’ released back in 2008.
The Album is mostly instrumental, but has vocals on Recur, All Our Ends and Spun Infinite by the band members and the guest vocalist Stuart Warwick on ‘Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute’
It starts off with Monoform which I already mentioned in the keyboard-destroying-context, you remember. The song starts with some looped keyboard pattern followed by an excellent drum groove. This very promising intro introduces the listener to the sound the album would revolve around. The song continues that way slowly building up to a massive explosion at 5:20 which presumably caused that keyboard accident live. I especially enjoy the keyboards on this song and consider it a perfect opener to this album.
The second song, The Trap, is also a great live song, particularly because one of the band’s bassists/guitarists supports the drummer with rim clicks on his toms making the drums sound beautifully intricate. My favourite part of the song is the rhythmically freaked out part at the end. One very fine song.
Recur follows up The Trap directly after the short ‘recur drum intro’ at the end of The Trap. In this song the band shows first-class guitar and vocal work and I fell in love with it at first listen. Amazing drum work towards the end, too.
To me, track 4, Later Than You Think, is one of the most experimental and innovative songs of the last years and also ended up being my favourite Helioscope song. This song begins with these strangely pleasuring sounds I’ve never heard in that way before – twirling around and speeding up until they finally get the shape of a rhythm. This beginning reminded me (and my father) of some sort of machine or engine slowly revving up and then running endlessly. I always love discovering sounds/music that my ears aren’t used to at all at first but then slowly grow to get used to and finally enjoy or even love them. Those are the kind of songs I end up loving most.
Of course Helioscope still has a few surprises and doesn’t stick to the sound you slowly got introduced to.
Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute (which wins the award of the best song-title off the album) for instance begins as a quite calm and warmly glowing song with the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Stuart Warwick and thus enriches the album with beautiful dynamics and dreamy textures.
Then again, Art/Choke, track 6, pulls you out of that dreamy atmosphere that was set by Meatman as it smashes those heavy strokes forming a massive rhythm right in your face. It is also (except for The Trap I think) the only song to feature odd time signatures on this record, the most memorable of which are the alternating 7/8 and 4/4 bars around the last minute of the song. Art/Choke’s great rhythms and its vast and heavy sound is what perfectly adds to Helioscope.
After the atmospheric interlude called Heal, the song All Our Ends (with a running time of nearly eight minutes the longest song on Helioscope) fades in with beautiful guitar melodies building up to the most emotional and massive moments on this record. Breathtaking.
Spun Infinite which kind of serves as an outro to the album features some really pleasing atmospheres with beautiful vocals and it somehow reminded me of Mogwai’s ‘Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep’. Although I’m not loving this song as much as the others, it is always a quite relaxing outro that shouldn’t be left out.
Overall, this album did not only live up to my expectations it devoured them and spit them out as something way better at the very first listen. I might as well say that in a few years I can still look back to this album and enjoy it more than ever.
Favourite Song(s): The Trap, Recur, Later Than You Think
Least Favourite Song(s): Spun Infinite
Overall Rating: 9/10
Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed it.
the reviewing turtle eater.