Releases New Album, Small Vessel, Today on Anticon * UK Dates w/ WHY? and Sole!
Think of him as a British Beck - Prefix
Depth Perception Lack" is the sample track, which comes late album but is actually a great intro point for the record, if only for the easy weaving of myriad ideas SJ stacks into the song's three-and-change minutes. "You know something I don't know" is the somehow cheery theme, chanted as the grooves shift, the instrumentation sprawls, voices joining in and dropping. It's a mini-epic of passages, swells, and climaxes, a lot like the record it belongs to. - Stereogum
It’s thrilling, as good an advertisement as any for Wisternoff as mad genius producer. - Paper Thin Walls
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.
Small Vessel is full of songs that are wholly pretty without shying from their disparate origins, and lyrics that loom large even as they focus on earthly details. A musical accomplishment in under two minutes, “Ruddy Spark” begins in collage, breaks into Fog-like, hard jazz-inflected rock, and closes in a blaze of surf-punk, while “Depth Perception Lack” builds a miniature mountain out of a typewriter beat, propulsive guitars, an unexpected Mt. Eerie-style chorus of ominous voices, and barroom piano. And though “Human Annoyed,” which plays like a sunnier Aidan Moffat B-side, never identifies the source of its internal angst, and “Slate” lobs comedic jabs at an unnamed offender, SJ’s wry outlook is relatable, even inviting.
After a final interlude of wordless, stark sound collage, closer “What Happened” begins with a slow strum. As the song unfolds into an unhurried pop, Sam sings, “I thought it was some kind of a plan/I thought and I thought/Some kind of design I had/But I forgot, I forgot.” He doesn’t sound wistful or worried, and he shouldn’t. This is what SJ Esau does best: plowing through sounds, moods and impulses, separating, sorting and piling until there’s a fully fleshed and cockeyed composition grinning at his back. Thus, Small Vessel stands on its own two feet, as Sam Wisternoff’s carry him off into the muddled sunset.
Tracklist for Small Vessel
3. Small Vessel
4. Bastard Eyes
5. I Threw A Wobbly
6. Under Certain Things
9. Ruddy Spark
10. The Small Percent
12. Depth Perception Lack
13. Human Annoyed
15. What Happen'd
SJ Esau Live!
Jun 24 2008 The Cellar Oxford with Sole and Jonquil
Jun 25 2008 Music Box Manchester with Sole and Bracken
Jun 26 2008 The Croft Bristol with Sole
Jun 27 2008 Brighton Freebutt Brighton with Sole
Jun 30 2008 Cargo London with Why?
Jul 2 2008 Bodega Nottingham with Why?
Jul 3 2008 Faversham Leeds with Why?
Jul 4 2008 Roadhouse Manchester with Why?
Jul 22 2008 The Croft Bristol with Why?
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