The project of Bristol, England's Seb Gainsborough, Vessel expands on his hometown's legacy of pioneering producers by constantly challenging himself.
On his early EPs and 2012's full-length Order of Noise, Gainsborough reconfigured elements of techno, house, garage, dubstep, ambient, and industrial, and introduced the tilted beats and warped melodies that became hallmarks of his music. Even as Vessel grew more conceptual on 2014's Punish, Honey, which featured handmade acoustic instruments, and 2018's Queen of Golden Dogs, which experimented with early music and Baroque influences, an almost tactile quality defined Gainsborough's music as much as his ambition and need for reinvention.
Born and raised in Bristol, Gainsborough started going to dance clubs as a teen and making his own music after a friend gave him recording software. Not long after, he became a part of the city's large and diverse Young Echo collective, which also includes El Kid, Khan, Manonmars, and Jabu among its members. Vessel officially debuted in 2011 with the Nylon Sunset single on Throwing Snow's esteemed Left Blank label and a limited-edition cassette release on Rekordah's Astro-Dynamics. Gainsborough's eclectic yet distinctive sound earned the attention of Tri Angle Records, which signed Vessel in early 2012. As he worked on his first album, he also released the Standard EP via Left Blank. Late that year, his debut full-length, Order of Noise, arrived, drawing praise for how deftly Gainsborough challenged techno's stylistic conventions. On the following year's Misery Is a Communicable Disease EP, which was issued by Mute's Liberation Technologies imprint, Vessel continued to bend the rules by adding industrial influences and warped tape melodies to his techno foundations.
For Vessel's second album, Gainsborough went even further afield. With help from his father, he spent months making a harmonic guitar, flute, and various guitars that he incorporated into his tracks alongside sheets of metal and experimental electronics. The results were 2014's Punish, Honey, which delivered some of his most challenging and organic-sounding music to date. That year, Gainsborough collaborated with Immix, a Liverpool-based new music group led by Australian composer and saxophonist Daniel Thorne. With their work Transition, they explored the development of instruments such as the trumpet and oboe and contrasted it with cutting-edge 21st century electronics. Following performances at Tate Britain and the University of Liverpool, Transition was recorded and released on Erased Tapes in 2016. Gainsborough took the work's intertwining of classical and electronic elements to greater heights on Vessel's third album Queen of Golden Dogs. Created during an 18-month span where he isolated himself in rural Wales, the album also featured vocals from Offa Rex's Olivia Chaney and drew on influences including surrealist painter Remedios Varo and writers ranging from Dante to Maggie Nelson. Gainsborough then worked with violinist Rakhi Singh on a piece that premiered in 2019. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi