Broadway Project is producer Dan Berridge, aided and abetted on this second album by vocalist Richard Palmer, whose aching high-register recalls such pop-operatic predecessors as David McAlmont and the late Billy MacKenzie. Allied to Berridge's dense (but light) layers of collaged sounds, the effect is akin to a one-off collaboration between The Associates and The Avalanches, with swirls of sound floating off at interesting tangents to each other as Palmer bares his soul. "Beauty", which opens the album, is virtually an instrumental, a fractured waltz in which scraps of snare, tympani, violin and glockenspiel circle warily round each other until a brief flourish of Satie-esque piano brings things to a conclusion. Palmer first appears on "I Believe in Superman", opining that "If there's no insight in your soul/ Nothing really matters, it's nowhere at all" over a heady fog of flute, sitar and tinkly percussion, the whole riding a trip-hop groove that dips and swells like Daniel Lanois' "The Maker". "Beaten Dog" is a lilting rock ballad with crowd noises buoying the terse guitar, and "Coming Back" casts airily reflective, Keith Jarrett-style wisps of piano behind Palmer's expressions of alienation. "Darkling" is almost an interlude, just a few drum rolls and film-score violins and horn swells, with a couple of gospel singers pleading "Jesus, bring me rest", before Berridge and Palmer plunge into the epic territory of "Sufi", "Unborn" and "Angel Heart", rounding the album off with "Manifesto", a speculative sound-montage of a more swingy, jazzy cast. The overall effect of The Vessel is dreamily intense, an affirmation that sequenced or collaged music need not be stiff and utilitarian. It's rather like all the more emotional elements that are missing from the Kraftwerk album.
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