[sic] Magazine

Sightings – City Of Straw

Despite conformational concessions in instrumentation and line up, present-day Sightings are unlike much else around. City Of Straw is the New York band’s seventh studio album, and, by general admission, they remain the same scratchy rock band as the one they first started 11 years ago. That core ethic however is now obfuscated entirely beneath an ocean of fluid rock mechanics and a wholly deceptive industrial crust.

In previous, now distant, incarnations, Sightings embraced more obvious melody and more recognisably rounded, if under-furnished, guitar music. Recent evolutions however have allowed for a growing minimalism to take hold, though it is probably a step too far to believe bassist Richard Hoffman when he says, “Ultimately I think we try to write pop music, where there’s no chaff and everything has a place”.

That there is “no chaff” is an understatement. City Of Straw is frequently cold and mute, and with little in the way of ornament. Mark Morgan ‘s vocals frequently seem distant, blown in by travel-weary winds, and the band’s linear industrionics are easily tracked from source to speaker.

The glitchy clicks that announce the opener “Tar And Pine” suggest a minimal techno that has long since strayed from the path, losing more than just its way. Peels, screams, blasts and roars of feedback subsequently approach My Bloody Valentine ‘s most seminal dinosaur-in-its-death-throes racket, and, in order to fill out the run time, Sightings introduce them to a synthesised, undulating heartbeat, as well as Morgan’s strangled vocal.

That envelope is pushed further with “Jabber Queen”, a track which resembles a particularly dissonant brand of sludgecore, only one dismantled by a child in a fit of bloodlust and then reassembled guiltily by a confused parent with staples and sticky tape. And, as a consequence, and not necessarily in a bad way, it seems to run at two different speeds – Morgan too slow, everything else too fast. Morgan then dials in a spooky near-spoken contribution for the 9-minute title track, which, for the most part, sounds like a buzzing insect warding off a rival. Whilst probably overlong and honestly difficult to enjoy in the traditional sense, it is nevertheless possible to appreciate.

The peace is duly shattered on “Saccharine Traps”. Best categorised as a cacophonous industrial-punk riot, it is much more easily pigeonholed than “We All Amplify”, which reverts to glitchy bedding on top of a nauseous coming and going. Morgan’s vocal here does its best not to totally plagiarise Angus Andrew ‘s most disturbing whispery suggestions, but perhaps the appreciation runs deeper than we can know, as the track’s slyly creeping menace is more than reminiscent to the shadowiest parts of Liars ‘ recent Sisterworld.

That sinister vibe is continued into “Weehawken” while it runs with machine-gun drum machine patterns and buzz-saw guitar FX for a balanced no-waver that pummels and caresses at the same time. The feedback surges from “Tar And Pine” are reprised for “Hush” and they come twinned with a scratchy, spinning sample and mechanical graunches. It’s fair to say the track’s beauty is hard to isolate, but it’s worth the effort trying as its curious appeal finally creeps in like a hand to the throat.

City Of Straw ensures it does not limp to a close with “Sky Above Mud Below”, a track that again plays its two-is-better-than-one card. Half freeform industrial-jazz and half snotty garage-punk, the two streams converge with competing tempos and agenda to form an uneasy but cordial blow-out.

Sightings have better anchors than to let their City Of Straw blow away under the hot-air of critics; strong tracks like “Weehawken” prove it. There’s a care to their noise, one that repays dedication. Furthermore, there’s an intelligence to it, one that defies easy riposte. Sightings are an island in today’s market, and they’ve just shored up their defences.

Advised downloads: “Weehawken” and “Tar And Pine”.

City Of Straw is out now on Brah / Jagjaguwar .


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