SJ Esau - Small Vessel (Anticon, 2008)


Genre : Indie,Pop,Folk

Tracklist

1. -
2. Frustrating
3. Small Vessel
4. Bastard Eyes
5. I Threw A Wobbly
6. Under Certain Things
7. Bubblehead
8. -
9. Ruddy Spark
10. The Small Percent
11. Slate
12. Depth Perception Lack
13. Human Annoyed
14. -
15. What Happen'd

On his second album for Anticon, Bristolian rock collagist SJ Esau, or Sam Wisternoff, tightens his playful, genre-bounding compositions even as he brings in a cast of collaborators to amplify his singular vision. While 2006’s Wrong Faced Cat Feed Collapse smartly played to its own contrasts, Small Vessel melds its diverse moods and styles into a buoyant, bold and cohesive whole, making for an album both utterly post-modern and curiously epic despite its humble means.

From a tics-and-all series of vocal drills chopped into rhythmic bits, “Frustrating” is born. The album’s first song quickly congeals into cresting waves of orchestral pop by way of little more than guitars and drums, with Sam spinning humorous images about obsessive behavior in his lilting croon (the chorus triumphantly promising to ring “Pavlov’s bell ’til the dog dehydrates”). Everything plays bigger and brighter this time, with even the 18-second title track sounding grandly choral as it runs up against the bouncing pastoral sounds of the turntable- and viola-laden “Bastard Eyes.” “I Threw A Wobbly” tosses bells, trumpet, soloing guitar and what sounds like the disembodied bark of Cee-Lo Green into the Wisternoff blender, and somehow it all comes out smooth and near danceable. Next, “Under Certain Things” lays down a warm, slowing bedrock of static and acoustics, as Sam and Charlotte Nichols (who also plays cello here, and on Portishead’s latest) sing about what could be bugs hiding under bricks, but what feels like some fleeting aspect of the human condition. And on “Bubblehead,” Sam belts out the woes of a claustrophobic shut-in over surging, sample-strewn folk.