You could sit down with Profanity’s lyric sheet and a highlighter pen, to draw out and call attention to all of the stately quips and profound observations under Caleb Cordes’ employ, but you’d just end up with a page that is completely yellow and sodden with ink. It’s very much a record steeped in and concerned with laboured literacy, and even outside of the words themselves, the guitars and drums largely take their cues from the vocals’ diction, changing at the drop of a hat to suit the temperament of what is being sung whether ferocious or fragile. What’s more, Sinai Vessel aren’t in the business of manufacturing quotables for self-aggrandisement, spewing them out without rhyme or reason. Their craft is gestated and their plight genuine, and it shows.
Each of the five main tracks have their own tale to tell, focusing on separate, overlapping qualms, but they’re all weathered and weary-eyed by the drag of disillusionment. The fittingly brief ‘Cuckold’ delves into the discord between people gradually entering adulthood, pitting morals against the ambiguity of reckless abandon. Written cleverly under the guise of self-denial, Cordes hammers home the uncertainty of it all by never quite reaching a satisfying conclusion: “Though I know they will make a cuckold of me, at least I can call it a party, though I’ll end up crude and defenceless, though at least it’s not friendless, right?” It’s brimming with indecision, and the constant lurches and lulls of the instrumentation attest to that feeling. Put together it becomes the most angst-laden track of the EP, something that goes hand in hand with this sort of music, but it’s delivered with unfettered spirit in a way that’s ordinarily foreign to it.
Also emblematic of that cloaked turbulence is opener ‘Cats’, albeit on a grander scale. The almost jovial tone of the music is a testament to Cordes’ ability to conjure a story – without paying attention to the lyrics, the track starts harmless and breezy with dawdling picked guitar and a shuffling beat, and switches over to steadfast fuzz and determination. Burrowed inside is a study of the growing separation between Christian people and the values that they’re expected to uphold – “your name, it is a banner that flies over the most shameful things” – what’s special about it is the tact with which it is presented. It’s honest without being antagonistic, wholly focused on people and goodwill – “but you are somewhere in the corners of America” – and as such anything that comes across as scathing is identifiable rather than divisive.
Straying slightly from the themes and the scope of the tales being told, the accomplished musicianship offered here couldn’t be more suitable. There’s no competing for attention, just passages that dexterously mirror the vocals – the effect, intended or otherwise, is an emboldening of the narrative; each roll of the toms as lucrative as ellipses, each guitar groan as suspended as an em dash. The last minute of ‘Drown Around’, a pained exhalation on the frustrating defiance that we often possess, is spacious and anticipatory. The unsettling gaps in the music snatch your breath and the subtle horns carry it back, marrying the comfort re-afforded in the closing “there’s a stamp on your bones, it says that you have a home”.
Like any great release, more subtleties come to light with each listen. Your frame of mind can end up deciding the particular power of any one track, but that’s what I find so enchanting about it. It awakens thoughts that have only ever been abstract in my own mind and turns them into a rich poetry. The photography analogies in closer ‘Index on the Oval’ might seem gimmicky and leeward at first, but they’re not without purpose. They are a succinct way of capturing that adolescent uncertainty, of virtues and disenchantment with the world, holding cherished memories as unattainable snapshots. But despite the despondency and the washed out colours, Profanity does offer shelter. It’s imperfect and at times dishevelled but it retains a certain familiar warmth; a reminder that unity is the best path for life’s journey.