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Vessels The Great Distraction Different Recordings

Is it a criticism to say that a record could have been produced at any time in the last 15 years? Or does that make it ‘timeless’?

There’s a high-grade strand of pulsating, progressive, emotive electronica and post-rock – think Moderat, Mogwai or Jon Hopkins – that always sounds how you imagine it will, but nevertheless tends to hold your attention. Vessels definitely fall into this category, but like the aforementioned artists, had enough raw talent to pull it off. The five piece band’s excellent cover of Nathan Fake’s The Sky Was Pink captures their oeuvre pretty perfectly: trance-leaning guitar music made on machines. And there are definitely some winners on their third album, The Great Distraction. Radiart is a euphoric juggernaut of a track that pummels away in a state of wide-eyed ecstasy. Deflect The Light – which features The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne – works nicely, with Coyne’s psych-pop whimper lending Vessels’ stuttering melody a playful edge.

But too many tracks drift by on what feels like auto-pilot, a little too timeless for their own good, and no match for perfectly pitched earlier material like Elliptic. Position, for example, shows promise before coasting along in third gear. Deeper in a Sky is a kind of sci-fi ballad that edges a bit too close to a smooth, polished and ultimately uninteresting place. The closing track with John Grant (Erase The Tapes) is a sparkling, well executed piece of electronic pop on its own terms, but the album’s preceding tracks detract from its impact. The Great Distraction is not by any means a bad album, but there’s not enough energy and spark to justify the familiar sonic templates on display.