Vessels third album, Dilate marked a sea change for the Leeds band, being the conclusion of the quintet's journey from melodic/discordant post rock (As per their 2008 début White Fields And Open Devices) and the evolved hybrid of psychedelia and minimalist programming (On its 2011 follow up, Helioscope).
At the time it was clear that the exercise had been a considered sequence of subtle integrations, the succumbing to of their passion for the flourishes of electronica gradually replacing the fragmented words and greater intricacies of their old world. This sounds like a recipe for alienating old fans, but in interview the band's Tim Mitchell and Tom Evans simply confessed that musically "The same reference points are there...but the goalposts have shifted".
Dilate wasn't a final destination then, nor is it now: die-hards however will still feel that sense of either elation or dread at the mechanized thump of opener Vertical's intro, much as they'll welcome or reject again the patchwork of drones and undulating rhythms which make up the track's pulsing main body.
They aren't of course the first band to jump dimensions, although Elliptic's obvious 80's European reference points - Kraftwerk's Metropolis, Giorgio Moroder versioning the soundtrack from Tron - signifies a potent reimaginging of themselves, with consequences which will be hard to undo. One of the accusations they've probably had to deal with as a result is the incipient lack of emotion which removing the randomness of analogue instruments out of the equation can bring. They counter this though with As You Are, the gossamer spun warmth of its shadowy vocals overflow with soul and closet humanity, a scrap of DNA lost in the otherwise soup of chimes and percussion.
Whilst devices like these might be there to serve old friends, surely the point of is now to create things with which to make people dance, to make them get lost in the singular entrancement of beats, blocking out all other senses as unnecessary. Here Dilate is as it's meant to be consumed, be it by dousing the listener with the towering unreconstructed prog synths of Attica, or the mellifluous chatter of On Your Own Ten Toes. This is much the same territory as American post chill wavers Com Truise or Tycho operate in, but even they rarely embed themselves in such a daybreak rush as is found here in On Monos, its build from unharmonious roots, through to a graduated shuffle, before finally crescendoing as a fully sunburst-crossed anthem to losing it.
You'll need to compose yourself however before working out how this special edition is configured. Aside from the fact that an entire album of remixes were released last year, at Contact Towers we received the CD edition of the Special Edition, if you catch our drift. This features new single 4AM - a break led mini symphony which turns up the bass - and a remix of said by Drew "Falty DL" Lustman which amps up the melancholy without going completely into its shell. The download version also has the mottled techno of Beautiful You Me, another version of 4AM and a take on Elliptic by Throwing Snow that brings with it a sort of cosmic tenderness.
It's certain that whatever the new material, however it's purposed, those who first stuck at it with Vessels have either just gone with what Dilate represents already or gone off in some kind or ironic huff. This leaves it to the rest of us to make up our minds, a job which without prejudice or over consideration is much more fun than the uninitiated might think.