It's precisely halfway into "Standard"—the lead cut and title track from the new EP by Bristol's leftfield-techno mad scientist, Vessel—when the full extent of its gritty, machine-funk groove is revealed. That he takes his sweet time getting to the point is no surprise; Sebastian Gainsborough deals primarily in the mystery of half-fleshed-out ideas and tends to favor atmosphere and mood over outright beats. When the producer does actually bring his deft abilities with drum-machine patterns and their bulbous counterparts into the forefront, however, his tracks toe the line between tech-noise experiments and total dancefloor heat. As the climax of "Standard" comes to fruition, what just might be the best example of Vessel's strange balancing act is fully realized, and the record's remaining two tracks are practically forced to live in its shadow.
But that's not to say the rest of the Standard EP pales in comparison to its first tune. "Merge" is a solidly straightforward production that deploys a commanding four-by-four rhythm into a dense fog of queasy synth pads and disorienting electronics, all of which jumps up into a clear and bubbly airspace at its midpoint before quickly descending back into Vessel's beloved aural miasma. It's an engaging enough track, but the following head-scratcher, "Zero," makes for a more worthy contender against the namesake of Vessel's 12". Clocking in at just under three minutes, the unhinged arrangement strikes like a bolt of lightning rendered in slow motion. Listening more closely to "Zero" reveals Gainsborough's handcrafted world of miniscule electronic synapses, obscured melodies, churning rhythms, clattering percussion, and momentary flashes of incandescent light. It's made with the same kind of attention to detail that the artist applies to all of his shadowy music, so even if it does take Vessel several minutes to bring the whole thing together, there's more than enough enigmatic sonic dazzle and substance to last the whole journey.