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Sightings - Through the Panama

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Artist: Sightings

Album: Through the Panama

Label: Load

Review date: Nov. 7, 2007

Even at their most insistently abrasive, Sightings occupied a curious place in New York’s noise terrain – at once aesthetically similar to their supposed brethren, but with a free-wheeling, squint-and-you-can-kind-of-see-it rock dynamic that still kept them at arm’s length. On record, this counterpoint could be tough to gauge, as the band’s earliest long players careened through blown out 4-track fuzz in a manner that suggested equal parts rudimentary electronics and, say, Harry Pussy getting reinterpreted by a lawn mower. But all that changed with 2004’s Arrived in Gold, a monstrous album that saw the band take a massive leap forward in both fidelity and precision, aligning bass throbs, slicing guitar and percussive stabs in ways so complex it defied traditional organizational structures.

The three years in between that album and Sightings’ latest, Through the Panama, passed with only whispers, of personal strife and inner turmoil weathered in the cold. Continuing the evolutionary trend, the band’s fifth full-length strikes with even greater clarity, sidling up to a backhanded notion of “approachability” that, despite the almost recognizable structures, still manages to keep the band well beyond the fringe.

And that’s definitely a good thing, because even though Through the Panama producer Andrew W.K.’s work here definitely grants the disc credit in the rock world, it’s still a record approached solely on Sightings’ terms. That’s always been the band’s purest strength - an ability to commingle shards of out-and-out noise, industrial, rock and even a few electronic leanings into a whole that bears their unmistakable stamp. Much has been made of these three deconstructing rock, but that’s lazy-speak; instead, they remodel it, refashioning constituent parts into something that retains its basic impulses while disorienting via new structures.

It makes perfect sense, then, that one of the standout tracks here is a warm-blooded cover of the Scott Walker-penned, Walker Brothers cut “The Electrician.” After all, the moves Walker has pulled over the years, refiguring all manners of music, seem to be playing themselves out again in rust-colored miniature over the course of this very record. Tracks like album opener “A Rest” revel in off-kilter drums and lock-step bass, granting the rhythm section a presence and range that had been previously lacking. Similarly, “Perforated” grapples with nagging polyrhythms while Mark Morgan’s lacerating guitar slices across the top.

What’s most surprising time and again here is the group’s comfort level with their instruments’ traditional forms – the drums keep time (however loose that definition may be), the bass holds the rhythm, and the guitars take the lead. To wit, it’s the closest Sightings have ever skirted with tradition, and far from making strange bedfellows, it makes perfect sense. More than just a welcome return after three years in the wilderness, Sightings’ latest is also that rare, awe-inspiring defining moment.

By Michael Crumsho

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Arrived in Gold



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