Occasionally, the press notes that accompany an album, aside from the usual praise for whichever artist is being 'sold', will employ a turn of phrase that absolutely nails the crux of why an album works. This is usually in part down to the artist supplying more or less detailed explanations of the thinking behind their work, and in part to the perceptiveness and writing skill of the PR, who are often very good writers indeed. Vessel's press notes describe Queen of Golden Dogs as 'saturated with colour; oscillating between grief, bombast and fierce joy...
In case you're unclear on what exactly influenced the latest LP from Sebastian Gainsborough (aka Vessel), the first 20 seconds of Queen of Golden Dogs makes it abundantly clear. Opening with a dramatic chamber suite, track "Fantasma (For Jasmine)" moves into verbose techno that soon forgets everything that begat it.
In fact, Vessel's third LP has so many inspirations — writers, artists, people in his life — that it's a feat the album ended up so uniform and focused. Tracks like the haunted "Good Animal (For Hanna)" and the primp ….
Vessel is not the kind of artist who progresses in straight lines. "I have to move about very quickly, or I become too familiar," he's said of his methods. Six years on from his debut album, Sebastian Gainsborough's music is virtually unrecognizable from its former self. Since emerging from the aftershocks of dubstep, he's been busily deprogramming himself from the familiar codes of club music, and on Queen of Golden Dogs, he slashes the ropes and soars into the stratosphere, pulling off an extraordinary fusion of chamber music, choral quintets, poetry, surrealism, mysticism, and, not least, rubble-making electronic epics.
In an instance of curious serendipity, this writer went to see a play at Battersea Arts Centre called Vessel in the same week as reviewing Queen Of Golden Dogs. It's curious because both play and record induced a similar sense of being overcome, by a cacophony of voices in one instance and the energetic sonic restlessness of the other. Vessel's Queen Of Golden Dogs often feels like a multitude of people vying for attention.
Sebastian Gainsborough (Vessel) follows this path on his latest album, Queen of Golden Dogs. Having said that, though, the grinding electro-acoustic beats of 2014’s Punish, Honey and the deconstructed techno of 2012’s Order of Noise was never music that would sit comfortably in any mainstream club environment. Queen of Golden Dogs goes further, mixing early music and Baroque orchestral styles with maximalist electronica — together (on the same track) and separately (alternating styles between tracks).
T he Bristolian musician Sebastian Gainsborough made their name with a strain of dance music that's not really designed for the dancefloor. Their expansive, ambitious post-club compositions have drawn on everything from dubstep to post-punk in pursuit of an intelligent and often slightly contrarian sound. Their third album takes the template a step further, combining classical instrumentation with the clanging dissonance and glitchy, unnatural tempos of the internet age.