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A review of...
The Great Distraction by Vessels
Vessels did the electronic thing so well on 2015's Dilate that it's hard to think of them as anything other than electronic artists now, so it's unsurprising that they continue to work within the genre on their latest album. However, where Dilate was an inconspicuous, minimal triumph, The Great Distraction finds the band working with a much bigger set of tools (and presumably a much higher budget). They've eased fully into the "collaboration" phase that most/all electronic artists toy with at some point in their careers, and whilst this doesn't hit the self-indulgent lows of certain bands that have trodden this path, it does seem to lack some of the low-key charm of Vessels' earlier releases. The collaborators here are The Flaming Lips, John Grant, Vincent Neff of Django Django and Harkin (Sky Larkin) and i'm not sure that any of their contributions improve upon what Vessels already had.
The Great Distraction opens on a brilliant high, the slow burning "Mobilise" where ambient origins gradually pave the way for a shimmering-sweaty-club-banger. It's followed up by "Deflect The Light" which features The Flaming Lips and sounds like a forgotten Flaming Lips song, perhaps deliberately forgotten. The inventive nature of most of Vessels' work seems to be lost, perhaps to make space for their collaborators, or perhaps it's just a coincidence. Things do seem to pick up on the instrumental tracks though, like "Glower" which could be used as an eight minute electro workout, kind of like LCD Soundsystem's 45:33, but for people who can't be arsed running for three quarters of an hour (it does seem to have those "warm up" and "cool down" sections at its book-ends). "Position" is another highlight which takes cues from Simian Mobile Disco, Radiohead and old school hip hop. These are great songs. Overall though, the album has a more clinical, downbeat feel, and this seems especially prevalent on the tracks with guest vocals. Pure inventiveness seems to have made way for a colder and more distant production line. Maybe I had my hopes set too high after listening to Dilate for so long. It's not that this is a bad record, it's just not as purely enjoyable as the one that came before it. Maybe it's a grower?