Vessel – ‘Punish, Honey’ (Tri-Angle)

Sebastian Gainsbourg’s tour de force Tri-Angle debut – ‘Order of Noise’, took a fragmented glance on Techno back in 2012. Savouring a challenge, he has returned to the dark imprint in an effort to move outside the over saturated bindings of modern electronic sounds. To record this latest work – ‘Punish, Honey’, he painstakingly tore apart what sounds like the contents of a garden shed to craft a set of crude but unique ‘instruments’.

Using wavy sheets of metal for percussion, sawed up bicycles for wind instruments, an array disjointed stringed instruments and hell know’s what else, the Young Echo member has assembled an epic arrangement of raw sampling power and in that crafted a dark musical force which comes to the boil in a thick black haze of visceral energy.

The record is reminiscent of this year’s Sonár film and not dissimilar to the methods of Musique concrète – a French electro-acoustic recording movement first pioneered in the forties and has been utilised by the likes of Matthew Herbert in recent years. Gainsbourg brings to the table an interest in national identity and notions of ‘Englishness’ in music. Seemingly informed by gothic and medieval sensibilities, there’s an undeniable air of discombobulation and torture. ‘Febrile’ commences things with twelve seconds of nothingness before a roll of sporadic drum hits clamour like an uncoordinated drunk has woken up and found himself sat in the hot seat of a fully amped recording studio. At just shy of sixty seconds, these rolls unfurl into a melee of rapid-fire pneumatic drills which ascend to a crescendo before ending with a final kick of obscurity.

The first single taken from the record, ‘Red Sex’ has been floating around online for some time now. Dark visions of dementia and quasi-erotic manipulation are brought to mind, much like what the cover art entails. This zany death march also channels a Turkish vibe. Gainsbourg’s home made horns seduce the listener into the shadows of the underworld, until close to the midpoint of the composition, the pace slackens. Slipping out of beat and key only adds to the mutilated weirdness of the overall sound before it turns itself back around, chugging and buzzing onwards to reach that same fever pitch once again. This is five minutes and twenty seconds of intoxicating indulgence of the darkest degree.

A hundred sonorous strings oscillate together at a low frequency on ‘Drowned In Water and Light’ before an abrupt transformation into more jagged drums. Broken violas appear somewhere throughout, squealing in lament and pain. Sharp and thoroughly moving as a piece of music you can feel a primal brutality bashing against the steel panels used in ‘Euoi’. A fractured synth line tickers over with running keys and some of the most bare instrumentals on the record.

Heavy layers of sound keep you guessing as to what Gainsb0urg is actually doing on ‘Anima’. Amplified effects appear and disappear throughout this jam with a booming effect. Chunky crackles fizz and pop on ‘Black Leaves and Fallen Branches’ while a vocal loop similar to Wilhelm Scream does the Doppler Effect around various makeshift bells and cymbals to form a contemporary installation piece. Rhythmic patterns are a constant driving force on ‘Kin To Coal’. This track stands out for achieving the effect of a full on instrumental Noise band. Imagine this being played at the centre of hallowed clearing – thousands of silhouetted pagan heads brainwashed by the presence of a higher power – and you’re probably somewhere close to the head space Gainsbourg was during its production.

The title track ‘Punish, Honey’ is calm and composed. It’s more of an interlude between the heavy hitters that enclose it. It fills in the calm before the final swoop of the storm. ‘DPM’ features morse code tapping and truncated banging sounds. The most Electro inspired track on the album, it’s melody is similar to ‘Red Sex’ except played through the 8-bit vernacular of an Atari. Strangely danceable, this track above others could work very nicely in a club environment.

Refreshing, intriguing and deeply exhilarating Vessel’s work requires a focused listening. Full of unexpected twists and turns, This record will grip you like a steel vice to the teeth, taking you for a white-knuckle ride of terror from beginning to end.

‘Punish Honey’ is available to buy here now. Catch Vessel’s Late at the Tate performance for free on October 3rd. More info here.

Conor McTernan