After a smooth start supplied by the kick-less ambience of opener "Railer (Further Exploration)" and heady "Human Like Us," it's "Bell Blocker" that gets things going. Ominous sub bass is paired with warped bell synths that drift in and out of focus while they contend with hi-hats and a subdued kick drum, resulting in an eloquently moody excursion. The same goes for the proceeding track, "Wriss," which makes use of a looped vocal snippet and bleepy midrange for another venture into gentle, steadily paced techno.
It's not until "Rip the Cut," two-thirds of the way through the LP, that things get hot and heavy. Distortion rears its head for the first time, rendering the track as something that wouldn't be out of place in a collection of Peacefrog-era PAS—even so, it's The Messenger's highlight, and one that showcases several of Slater's oldest and finest hallmarks—rolling bass, big drums and expert layering.
Slater's embrace of restraint is what makes The Messenger so special though. Early on, the brooding sweeps of "Beauty in the Fear" set the scene for the hallucinogenic synth work that follows as a part of "Human Like Us" and "Bell Blocker," while, at just past midway, the sinisterly loopy and hazy "Kray Squid" leads perfectly into the carnage of "Rip the Cut." They are essential ingredients to an album that stands alongside 2011's best.