From the Depths: All Hail Sightings
Welcome to From the Depths, a recurring feature that spotlights deep underground sounds lurking within the Rhapsody catalog.
With the recent release of their ninth full-length, Terribly Well, Sightings have once again proven they are underground rock's most evolutionary creatures. Witnessing the New York trio of Mark Morgan, Richard Hoffman and Jon Lockie grow and develop has been the equivalent of watching man progress from knuckle-dragging ape to upright, conceptual thinker, all within the span of a decade.
Early in the group's career they were greasy troglodytes beating Confusion Is Sex-influenced industro-psychedelia over the head with a skuzzy club stolen from those Aussie hellions in Sick Things (with an assist from Japan's Mainliner). Documented on their self-titled debut and its follow-up, 2003's Absolutes, this white-noise squall was unrelenting, kinetic and truly expressive. Singer and guitarist Morgan's horrid litany of grunts, howls and shrieks, while exhilarating and visceral, was deeply pained and frightening as well.
Gradually, though, Sightings started disassembling their squall and experimenting with different ways to fuse its base components to ever more complex sounds, ideas and tactics. Case in point: Though the aforementioned Absolutes was still very primal, a metronomic sense of propulsion (one cunningly imported from minimal techno's more outré manifestations) can at times be detected. The following year's Arrived In Gold, possibly the outfit's most forlorn effort, soaked these advances in power-drill rhythms, betraying the trio's love for the steely, mechanical crunch of early Einstürzende Neubauten and The Ex. For 2007's Through the Panama and 2010's City of Straw, the group ratcheted up their ambition a thousandfold, with both records benefitting from a marriage of architectonic drone-work (think avant-garde composer Iannis Xenakis' masterpiece Persepolis), seething shoegaze distortion (not fuzz, mind you) and proggy grooves that pivot on the intricate patterns and runs of bassist Hoffman and drummer Lockie (the latter utilizing a traditional kit, as well as synth-drums and contact microphones).
This, of course, drops us off at Terribly Well, which is the best evidence yet that Sightings are now full-blown art rockers who are agile and skilled enough to mix, match and deconstruct any and all their previous experiments in the process of creating new form, new movement and new ROCK. But what ultimately needs to be understood about Sightings' evolution is the band's refreshing lack of assimilation. It's not as if they were once raw and underground and nowadays they're refined and mainstream. Just the opposite, really. The music heard on Terribly Well is far more alien and unique than the noise-punk jammers they first cut their teeth on. And for an underground band to wave the freak flag for as long as Sightings have is a truly inspiring accomplishment.