Vessels - The Portland Arms
Live Review

Vessels – The Portland Arms, Cambridge

“You don’t have to translate the guitar, it turns your daydreams into sound.” Johnny Marr

Vessels are the best modern example of a band provoking incredible emotion and power from almost entirely instrumental music. Their occasional and other-worldly vocals are more a part of their compositions than lyrics to pick through. Many would claim this Leeds five-piece can never be anything other than a talented collective until they bring meaningful vocals to their songs. They’re wrong. Who needs another traditional four piece rock band singing about their miserable lives? Vessels capture your mind and whisk it away, out of this beer soaked bar room, to glorious icy dream worlds.

At least they would have done if their bass troubles hadn’t kept awakening us from our Friday night escapism. With a start delayed by faulty cables and amps the set was cut short and moments lost as frustrating gaps dragged between songs. Finally, with moments left, the volume lifted and their dark rumbling bass emerged to provide what had been coming and going throughout. In their full wall of sound glory it’s like coming across a couple of giants strumming huge windmills across 12 string Rickenbackers and the massive noise crashing and wobbling from 20 foot Fender amps.

In this tiny venue, standing but a few yards from these guitar heroes, it was mesmerising watching fingers dart around the strings. It’s the perfectly measured anticipation created by a few chords, whispered words, stroked keys and foreboding tapping of the drums that provides the floating music from which they finally crash in to a collective barrage of noise full of addictive riffs. ‘Altered Beast’ opens up from such beginnings in to euphoric high pitched glory before ‘An Idle Brain and the Devil’s Workshop’, the most immediate song from their debut album ‘White Fields and Open Devices’, takes over with Zeppelin guitar lines, thrashing heavy metal, bouncing bass and another stunning moment of contemplation. Stripped back and quiet it rolls out with beating heart drums and lovely hypnotic electric guitar lines. ‘Look at that Cloud!’ is the Vessels masterpiece. Just before the lights are flicked on we are treated to this eight minute epic, which encompasses all that is great about this highly imaginative, experimental and apologetic group.

At this early stage Vessels bathe the audience in cinematic post-rock at close quarters. If they are unleashed on to large festival stages their harder edged Sigor Ros sound will blow thousands of minds and plenty of eardrums.

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