Vessel - Order of Noise

8/10

Have you ever stood still in one loud space and been struck by how seemingly discordant noises can blend into a wall of sound that’s comprehensive and musical, in its own way? Bristol-based producer Sebastian Gainsborough, aka Vessel, almost certainly has. His distinctive music blends elements of techno and house with a host of atonal noises and counter-intuitive rhythms to create an overarching sound that crackles to life when taken as a whole. Like a Magic Eye puzzle for your ears, it’s initially confusing but slots into place when you step back and squint.

After a couple of enigmatic 12″ releases and a few collaborations with other members of the Young Echo collective, Vessel’s debut LP Order of Noise has arrived, pushing Gainsborough’s sound ever further into the shadowy industrial world that he’s built for himself. As a dance album, it’s deficient: with the exception of a few heightened moments, most dancing shoes wouldn’t know what to do with these skittering effects and dissonant lurches. But experienced on its own terms, as an album that prioritises its conceptual maze of sound over immediate hooks, it’s an easy recommendation for the discerning armchair electrophile.

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by Order of Noise on the first listen. Vessel’s style is cold as steel and, initially, about as friendly. ‘Images of Bodies’ opens with static waves that harden into solid slabs of bass rumble and an elusive beat that keeps the listener constantly on edge. ‘Court of Lions’ twitches with an anxious energy, made more so by an ominous ticking clock and what sounds like someone having an epileptic fit while slashing at a viola.

But the album’s hostility seems to soften with repeated listens, all that nervous energy settling to a simmer as your brain slips into sync with its unusual patterns. Order of Noise, as it turns out, is appropriately named. Gainsborough’s true talent is taking jarring, industrial sounds and marshalling them into remarkably organic shapes, almost as if he’s creating a space and just waiting for random sounds to match up.

And sure enough, each track, from the mechanical whomp of ‘Silten’ to the street-lit atmospherics of the Burial-esque ‘Stillborn Dub’, slowly takes form as it progresses. If you can break through the initial cold shoulder, witnessing these disparate elements coalesce is a bewitching experience, like hearing a factory slowly whirring into life of its own accord. If, as its title suggests, Order of Noise’s mission is to create something meaningful out of the randomness of sound, then Vessel has set himself a noble task and succeeded. Gainsborough certainly doesn’t make it easy for the listener, but when the reward for persistence is this high, the extra effort is worthwhile.