With scarcely a trace of Balam Acab's waterlogged textures or Holy Other's warm, blanketed tones, Order of Noise still seems entirely at home on Tri Angle. In truth, the imprint has already displayed a knack for picking out producers capable of making complete statements with their first full-lengths, and Vessel's debut LP only further solidifies that fact. But more so than just its status as a solid debut album, Order of Noise suits the label because it finds a distinctive voice within the world of underground electronic music, a realm where artists are often identified simply by repeating stylistic cues, tempo ranges, and rhythmic choices as opposed to a palpable sense of personality. Vessel bucks that trend, choosing not to stay in any one pocket for too long and loosely stringing together an album that can be unpredictable, but is also fascinating by the same stroke.
While Vessel's proclivity for jumping between tempos and micro-genres (moving between abstract techno, dub, and even a bit of IDM at his leisure) defines the record's course, there is a sonic consistency throughout that helps hold these feats together. Sometimes, it's the overdrive-singed synth melodies or layers of sizzling pads pushed just into the red, usually joined by drums whose distorted paths help bite through the mix. Truly, no song is without its crunch. Still, this inclusion of overdriven elements within Vessel's soundscapes never comes off as overindulgent, as the Bristol-based producer balances these fuzzier inclinations with sets of warbly tones and densely developed sonic structures for a sound that is enthrallingly detailed, nuanced, and surely anything but lo-fi.
As the 12-track effort unfolds, it is this aesthetic through line that allows Vessel to act as a chameleon when it comes to the other elements of his music. The first three songs seem to transition in incremental steps from an ambient excursion to alien dub, and then on to slow-brewing, off-kilter techno. From there, the record jumps back and forth in grand gestures, rarely touching on a similar rhythmic pattern or melodic theme—"Aries" shuffles in a bed of gurgling pads; "2 Moon Dub" takes a synth-led voyage through, well, more dub; and "Lache" ventures even further into sunken, slow-moving techno. Truthfully, all of the tracks on Order of Noise are a bit hard to categorize, in a sense bearing comparison to the heyday of labels like Warp, where artist albums were not so strictly confined to a single genre and were instead expected to creatively explore different tempos, feels, and stylistic slants. On Vessel's debut, the highlights—"Silten," "Scarletta," and the powerfully twisted "Court of Lions" to name a few—are perhaps the most murky in terms of genre, proving that Vessel's talent does not lie in which part of the electronic-music spectrum he chooses to spend his time, but rather what he's able to do regardless of which corner he finds himself operating.
In all honesty, Order of Noise can be a disorienting listen—it's not hard to get lost along the path, considering how drastic its moves can be. But when this record lands on a great idea (which is certainly a regular occurrence), the captivating qualities of Vessel's songcraft and his strength for piecing together textural marvels make up for any confusion along the way.