Eric Quach's former band, the spacey space-less destroyalldreamers is prototypical of perfect new-school shoegaze. Among their many achievements is an absolutely surreal cover of ‘Souvlaki Space Station’. Surreal because it sounds exactly like Slowdive's original. How does that make it surreal, or for that matter a cover version, you might ask? Well, destroyalldreamers are an instrumental outfit. There were no vocals on their Space Station yet it mirrors the original flawlessly. I don't know how they did it nor do I want to, but it's a composition that manages to sing without a voice on it.
I know destroyalldreamers and thisquietarmy - which is Quach gone solo - for their lazy, hazy, blissful sounds. The titles of their songs always match the music perfectly, so you've got 'Swirling Colours Sink' and you've got 'The Sky Was Glorious For A Moment' and you've even got 'Zeta Reticuli Express' and they all sound like exactly what you'd expect them to. Take a moment to imagine how that might be. You'd be right.
So when I perused the press release for Vessels I was un peu confused. An unmissable comparison to Jesu was glaring at me. Shirley, an error on the part of the PR crew. They must have picked the wrong name from the 'related artists' tab on last.fm. Nope, there's no mistake here. The familiar frosty, somewhat feminine charms of past efforts have been drastically abandoned. Vessels is stereotypically masculine - but not brutishly so. It's sophisticated and intricate in the manner of an model railway set. This is a good comparison to make given the album's consistent, and pretty forehead-slappingly obvious, nautical theme. Vessels, get it? (took me a while...)
It's the first track that throws you off, since 'The Pacific Theater' is the only song that's not a vessel. It's also the one that makes it frighteningly clear that you are no longer in the comforting embrace of the TQA cushion you were thusfar used to. It's heavy and overarching, weighed down by a deep, resonating percussion. It's the embodiment of velvet curtains that themselves represent the unruly Pacific. You begin to see where the album is going in the second track, the oceanic scenario making itself more evident along with a jarring hostility. The vessel that's the subject of 'Lost Crusades' is determined and unrufflable, but it's also not very happy. It's got a grim task ahead of it. One that results in interim track three, 'Shipwrecks'. 'Shipwrecks' is quieter and more subdued - one and a half minutes of damage surveillance. Its partner, 'Black Sea', however, is loaded with personality and theatrical drama. It starts by watching the dust settle in the wake of its predecessor and then, all majesty and fierce grace, drifts emotionlessly through the wreckage, the clear and deserving victor.
It finds its inverse is the stellar closer. 'A Spanish Galleon' is the same scene as the last but this time we've got strings. Lovely, infallible cello strings making palpable the intensity of the situation. The loss of life that, though tragic, needs to be overlooked. It's a triumphant ship that emerges from the warground but no cheerier than when it went in. Too deep a reading, perhaps? Don't know... when you're dealing with something purely instrumental, the imagery appears sharper, and possibly more accurate than it would have had there been lyrics present. Sometimes, words just get in the way. If there were any on Vessels it would be like black texter graffitied over an oil painting.
8Radhika Takru's Score