Seb Gainsborough's debut album, Order Of Noise, fractured techno along its many fault lines, leaving behind jagged pieces that bore the genre's influence without its structural integrity. Two years later, and Punish, Honey carries almost no trace of that dance music lineage. In fact, nothing about the LP sounds electronic—synths and drum machines have been replaced with muscle and sinew, primitive metal banging against metal.
For decades now, new electronic music hasn’t evolved - it’s simply mutated. Countless producers are emerging, with the underground crafting billions of hours of stubbornly similarly constructed (and admittedly very often just as compelling) loop-based beats, while a glance at the top 40 reveals how the electronic mainstream is still stuck in the same early-Noughties summer in Ibiza - needless to say well away from the radar from ‘proper’ critics. One would’ve thought that digitisation would fuel innovation, but the sonic spectrum of electronica’s remained pretty steadfastly intact.
On his early EPs and debut album Order of Noise, Vessel's Seb Gainsborough showed he was willing to forsake the obvious path as he challenged stylistic conventions and expectations about where he'd go next. Even so, Punish, Honey finds him taking his skills in a very different direction. Order of Noise's reverb-draped recombinations of techno, house, and dub showed he could expand on his short-form works compellingly, but his caustic second album's studies in decay sound even more cohesive.
"Febrile," the brief opener on Punish, Honey, gives a pretty good indication of what's to come on the Bristol, UK producer's second album. A sparsely-recorded snare roll that sounds like it's being played on an oil drum in an abandoned warehouse builds into an aggressive barrage, almost comical in its intensity, that sounds like (Slayer drummer) Dave Lombardo in a one-man speed samba troupe while multiple jackhammers tear up the pavement. The following track, "Red Sex," folds these industrial drums into a woozy groove threaded through a catchy, maniacal melody.
Everyone enjoys their own noise, and we're all curious to hear how, when given the opportunity, our natural ability to create noise might sound as it rings in our ears. Often this innate form of expression can materialize into learning an instrument or honing a vocal skill, but not so for Sebastian Gainsborough. The Bristol native's Vessel project remains fixated on the possibilities of making and arranging his own noise, using the forms of dub and techno like a means to his esoteric ends instead of the impetus itself.
In the title of his second album as Vessel, Sebastian Gainsborough interjects a comma between two words originally linked by Emily Dickinson. “In vain to punish Honey – / It only sweeter grows – ” wrote the 19th century poet in one of her later works, a couplet as enigmatic as any she kept hidden until her death. But there was a hint of masochism there, and Gainsborough teases it out further into something more like BDSM.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Bristolian producer Vessel has taken the bold decision to forgo totally electronic music production in favour of a 'more organic' sound with his latest album Punish, Honey. The warped techno tracks of Order of Noise are a far cry from the natural noise on Punish, Honey. To achieve this new sound, Young Echo member Vessel used sheets of metal as percussion, sawing up bikes to make flutes and creating harmonic guitars all by his own hand.
The tendency to reduce contemporary music to a string of past reference points is one of the more depressing tendencies of both cultural criticism and consumer culture, but still, when dealing with figures such as Seb Gainsborough, a certain context can be useful. Gainsborough is perhaps the most visible member of Bristol’s Young Echo, a collective of music-makers with ties to the city’s bass music scene, but operating to their own autodidactic impulses and outsider sensibility. For an idea of the sounds that fill his ears, take a look to his recent FACT mix: a determinedly outré drift through the outer limits touching on the haunted tape music of Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet, the clattery ‘80s DIY punk of The Bots, and the Moroccan lute music of Maalem Moulay Hassan.
Vessel — Punish, Honey (Tri-Angle)Vessel’s Seb Gainsborough is part of Bristol, England’s Young Echo collective, but his solo material differs considerably from that of his peers. While the other Young Echo producers mostly play with the familiar, albeit frayed, contours of minimalist dubstep, grime and techno, Gainsborough has, with Punish, Honey, pushed those tropes into esoteric new realms. There’s still a hint of techno running through the backbone of the album’s tracks, his novel approach and formal structures sound like very little else coming out of the UK’s club culture.
Punish, Honey. Pain, pleasure. The comma in the title of Vessel's second album denoting some correspondence rather than opposition between the two. On the album's cover, writhing marmorated bodies are locked in the throes of what could equally be ecstasy or agony. In Three Essays On The Theory Of ….