One of the most highly original producers to come off of Bristol’s conveyor belt of sonic innovators, Vessel, a.k.a. Seb Gainsborough has made quite an impression since his emergence in 2011. His debut album Order Of Noise, released two years ago through Tri Angle, told intricate tales that often seemed to border on musical madness before revealing themselves as darkly-crafted techno or jarred atmospherics.
Gainsborough’s sophomore effort for the New York label, Punish, Honey veers off further into uncharted territory, hovering somewhere between post-punk and brash, cinematic eroticism.
The gate to obscurity, opener ‘Febrile’, builds slowly, trudging to the executioner’s block by way of snappy drum rolls, before launching into a full blown pneumatic assault on the eardrums. Here, inside the detuned carnival of Gainsborough’s mind, lurk unsettling, yet compelling, soundscapes.
The overdriven psychedelia of the title track provides a warm welcome against the rough-hewn, industrial drone that features heavily elsewhere. ‘Black Leaves and Broken Branches’ and ‘Downed in Water and Light’ are as melancholy as the names suggest, whilst ‘Anima’ could well be mistaken for a Celtic funeral march.
The first highlight comes in the form of ‘Red Sex’, all lurid horns and grinding low end, the track slogs through an entrancing nightmare of dimly-lit opium dens and back alley brothels. This is not an easy-listen album by any means, and on occasion is not even particularly musical, but it certainly is a unique one. An interesting, if obtuse, break from the norm, the tone of Punish, Honey sometimes draws comparisons to the unadulterated, audacious sound of Aphex Twin, yet (thankfully) feels restricted by an organic shell of analog fuzz.
Closer ‘DPM’, another favourite, doesn’t let up for a moment, launching into a jittering, militant beat before it rises to a brazen crescendo that seems to encompass the rest of the album in its entirety. A daunting choice maybe, but a cohesive diversion for an eclectic ear.