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Sightings - Absolutes

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Artist: Sightings

Album: Absolutes

Label: Load

Review date: Aug. 6, 2003

Sonic Elements

Sightings are a trio from New York and the name of their new record is Absolutes. Before even listening to the album, I was thinking of the title as an indicator of what was to come. Absolute as the breaking down of musical elements into the most basic parts, reduced to the essential? Or Absolute in the sense of extremity – absolutely crazy, absurd, etc.? It came as little surprise that both cases are true. The term “noise” is thrown around without much discretion these days (I am as guilty as the next of overuse), but Sightings know what it’s all about. Noise (sound, you call it when tame) is really about pitch / frequency over a period of time. On Absolutes the frequencies tend to the uncomfortable upper register and last about as long as the human body has the capacity to play them. Sightings will not be your favorite “hey bro, throw this on at a party to show everyone we’re down with hard rock” band. But, they may end up being the “we’ve exhausted our stash of industrial and hardcore records and need something equally evil and destructive” band. Absolute as couched in semi-industrial terms as extreme in sound and basic in meter perfectly define the band’s sound.

The band constantly waivers between rock structures and the abstract sounds throughout the album. “White Keys,” the first song, is all feedback and screams. Made up of about four discernable notes backed by a basic, distorted beat it is equal parts groove and pain: a proclamation of sound control and song structure, but reckless and over-modulated all the same. A few songs hence, “Bishops” appears as “White Keys” second cousin. Slightly more restrained with a traditional vocal focus, punctuated by air raid siren feedback and the trademark fuzzed-out drums thudding underneath. Sightings create something like a song, run it through several layers of distortion and project it with a “last gasp of air” desperation and intensity. As the vocal, instrumental and production techniques on Absolutes attest, pushing any sound past its logical breaking point is central to the Sightings’ modus operandi.

The other key strain running through Absolutes is decidedly industrial. Scaling back the vocals and drumbeats, they push less recognizable sounds. The songs progress more textually, building in momentum and scope, eventually buckling under the weight of their own elements. “Infinity of Stops” skirts the bounds of each extreme with a calibrated pace and demonic vocal squall. The band settles into a fully amorphous and aggressive mode with “Anna Mae Wong.” No rhythm, no structure just sounds laid bare. If ever there were an anti-rock trio capable of subverting the recognized guitar-bass-drums format to produce something completely unrecognizable as such, Sightings would be that band. Although the sounds they create as a whole have some roots in industrial music, their means of producing them are totally fucked-up and admirable. “Reduction,” the album's closer, is an eight-minute assault of repetitive phrases, the best synthesis (reduction) of the two strands running through the album.

Having condensed and honed their sound so precisely one can only wonder what Sightings might do next. The band speaks with a confidence and force too strong to ignore, and Absolutes is a fitting document of pushing the rock trio format to its logical end.

By Marc Gilman

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