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Dilate Julian Marszalek , February 27th, 2015 14:02

When Leeds quintet Vessels released the Elliptic EP in the closing overs of 2013, the shift in musical direction was obvious. Gone were the guitar explorations that owed more than a passing nod to the combustible extremities of Explosions In The Sky, and in their place were electronic textures that were a sure sign of what was to come. The gap between the release of that EP, punctuated by the download-only single, On Monos, and the arrival of Dilate would suggest that the band were either dipping their toes into new waters, working hard on expanding that sound, or hampered by budgetary constraints. It might even be all three, but who really cares when the results, as contained here, have clearly been worth waiting for.

Though comparisons will inevitably be drawn with 65daysofstatic's move into electronic territories, Vessels have eschewed the grandeur that characterised Wild Light to create a document that's more intimate in its execution while being no less satisfying. As evidenced by opener 'Vertical', Vessels are keen proponents of tension and release as the track slowly and methodically builds layer upon layer of sound that grows from a simple insistent beat into a magnificently pulsating beast with each bar. Given Vessels' previous excursions the effect is startling but beguiling.

Certainly, as Dilate progresses, the focus on beats and percussion that frequently tease and taunt becomes increasingly palpable. Witness 'Glass Lake' wherein the drums duck in and out to surrender to gentle sweeps and tinkling arpeggios as elsewhere, the colossal 'Attica' puffs itself up to take on all comers. The gentle caresses of 'As You Are' are redolent of Four Tet's calling card but the thing is, none of this sounds remotely cynical or calculated and it's impossible to feel that Vessels weren't having a good time putting this album together and that sense of fun runs right the way through the music.

For sure, Vessels aren't breaking any new territory here but that in itself is no bad thing; this is a band that's stretching itself as it takes bold steps to challenge itself before seeing where this thing can go. But what really works in Dilate's favour is that this is very much an album, an experience that's designed through its pacing and mastering to be taken in a single sitting. That's a bold ask in a digital age of playlists and single track downloads but the rewards in acquiescing to their request are manifold.