Somewhere during the first listen of Queen of Golden Dogs, the sense of wonder properly opens up. The third album from Vessel carries with it a scale of enquiry that doesn’t seek to answer any questions, but rather it stands on the edge of something and looks further out.
A departure from previous albums, this sequence of tracks offer a larger scaled account of ambition. They’re bombastic, intimate, brave, and vulnerable. Inspired by surrealist painter Remedios Varo, and a new love – the focus of the artist lies in the metaphysical, and often unreal qualities that occupy the space between people. Also here is a kind of magic realism that brings purpose to the objects touched by love.
Beyond the regal album title the spirit of the feminine also colors the full sequence. All but one of the nine tracks carry with them a dedication to a female artist, or womanly influence on Vessel’s life. However, these tracks are more than tributes, tagged lazily with signposts to the theme; they are informed by the spirit of these people.
There are certain ticks that occur in different places of the instrumental process. Vessel utilizes a wide range of sounds, from smooth strings, and polished, brassier shapes, to beats that lay heavily across things. Punctuating the journey Vessel adds a signature flourish; a not-quite-glitch, occurring here and there. We’re not talking about a cut-and-paste template that gets used once and then duplicated throughout, or a single instrument used in repeated thematics. There’s an approach to slightly knocking things out of step for a second or two. Vessel doesn’t want an easy path, and there is a fight against complacency in a listener. The result is a thing of extraordinary beauty.
Aside from the musical element, the visual aspects of the album emphasize the challenge-and-reward approach of the album. ‘Paplu (Love that moves the Sun)’ brings visual prompts that toy with expectation. Optimistic, romantic even – the track opens up through major progressions, and a time signature that warms and reassures. However, like the sun, there’s a darkness in the background that benefits things. The discolored, scratched film treatment that filters the visual aspect is exactly the kind of effect that’s felt elsewhere, instrumentally.
At times Queen of Golden Dogs can feel isolating. ‘Sand Tar Man Star (for Auriellia)’, the final track of the album, carries a bottomless sense of scale. Hollowed-out sonics, and industrial forms put slabs of sound down over everything, but then an operatic sense of beauty pours in, and we’re saved. It’s moments like this where Vessel excels, and where the album makes most of its emotive force.
With Queen of Golden Dogs Vessel has captured something of the transformative process. Whether it’s through love, or the ability to ask new questions of ourselves, forward propulsion comes from enquiry and the mindful disruption of familiar habits. These sounds carry with them the quality of previous albums, but a new trajectory toward even higher things has been set.
HURRY – BUY – VESSEL MUSIC
PHOTOGRAPHY BY – CHRISTALLA FANNON