Brought to life over an eighteen month period whilst hiding away in the outskirts of Wales, Vessel’s latest record, Queen of Golden Dogs, is described as an “exploration of living a life devoted to uncertainty, curiosity and change.”
The moniker of Seb Gainsborough, it’s fair to argue that ideas of curiosity and change have been prominent factors in the evolution of Seb’s Vessel alias. Whilst the Bristol producer is also a core member of soundsystem outfits like Young Echo, Killing Sound, ASDA and FuckPunk, the musical ambitions of Vessel have always remained entirely singular, and in the six years since the twisted techno experiments of their classic debut album on Tri Angle Records, the sound of Vessel on Queen of Golden Dogs has seen the artist move into a new musical form.
Taking a conscious step away from their association with club music, the compositions inside the record marry chamber music and traditional styles with deformed electronics and battered noise, with Vessel honing a unique balance between anarchic tension and fragile moments.
Heavily influenced by a range of writers, painters, and a new love, we asked Vessel more on their thinking and influences behind the album. See what they pulled from below.
1. Maggie Nelson – The Art of Cruelty
I have read this cover to cover several times now. It’s become a bible for me and a great instigator of big slow thoughts.
Favourite quote: “An art that affects you in the moment, but which you then find hard to remember, is straining to bring you to another level. It offers images or ideas from that other level, that other way of being, which is why you find them hard to remember. But it has opened you to the possibility of growing into what you are not yet, which is exactly what art should do.”
2. John Ruskin – The Nature of Gothic (from Stones of Venice)
I find the way Ruskin talks about the freedom of gothic architecture incredibly physical and emotive. His descriptions echoed my feelings about the music I wanted to make so vividly that it was quite disconcerting.
Favourite quote: “Undefined in its slope of roof, height of shaft, breadth of arch, or disposition of ground plan, it can shrink into a turret, expand into a hall, coil into a staircase, or spring into a spire, with undegraded grace and inexhaustible energy.”
3. John Milton – Paradise Lost
I think I’m drawn to the ambiguous colour of this book more than anything else. Plus it’s got one of the most seductive and ridiculous anti-villains going (who obviously gets all the best lines).
“Thus these two,
Imparadisd in each other’s arms
The happier Eden, shall enjoy their fill
Of bliss on bliss, while I to Hell am thrust,
Where neither joy, nor love, but fierce desire,
Among our other torments not the least,
Still unfulfil’d with pain of longing pines”
4. Hilda Hilst – With My Dog Eyes
I love the way the writing flows so brightly in this book. I feel as if you can actually feel her pen scratching away in the moment. I find her take on the slippery hinterland between abstraction and reality a perfect kind of strange.
Favourite quote: “God? A surface of ice anchored to laughter. That was God.”
5. Fernando Pessoa – The Book of Disquiet
I’m just going to open the book at random and see what my finger falls on. That’s how I tend to read it.
Favourite quote: “I know I’ve failed. I enjoy the vague voluptuosity of failure like one who, in his exhaustion, appreciates the fever that laid him up.”
6. Leos Janacek – Intimate Letters
This piece of music really grabbed me by the throat when I first heard it. I think it’s possibly because I empathise with the way he tried to write a living person. Plus, it’s just one of the most thrilling, beautiful, absurd pieces of music when it’s played well.
7. Bela Bartok – String Quartet no.6
I feel like if Janacek showed me how I wanted to dance, then Bartok taught me how I wanted to use colour. I love all of his quartets. The instructions for all of the movements in this piece are marked mesto, which means sad.
8. Don Carlo Gesualdo- Merce, Grido Pianogendo
Another huge influence on my sense of colour and structure. This piece was written in the early 15th century. I love how restless his music tends to be. This was considered pretty normal back then. A good example of how development is never a straight line.
9. Remedios Varo
I could have picked quite a few of her paintings. I’m often not sure why I relate to her so strongly, but it feels like an unquestionable kind of devotion. There is something about the quiet strength of this particular painting that I love.
10. Maggie Nelson – The Argonauts
Such an important book to me. Complex, strange, compelling and beautiful. It was a crucial hub that I returned to when I needed to know I was generally heading in the right direction.
Favourite quote: “Before long I learned that you had spent a lifetime equally devoted to the conviction that words are not good enough, but corrosive to all that is good, that is real, that is flow. We argued and argued on this account, full of fever, not malice. Once we name something, you said, we can never see it the same way again. All that is unnamable falls away, gets lost, is murdered. You called this the cookie-cutter function of our minds…I argued along the lines of Thomas Jefferson and the churches, for plethora, for kaleidoscopic shifting, for excess.”
Queen Of Golden Dogs is out now on Tri Angle Records.
Order it here.
Featured Image: Christalla Fannon