‘Amusers and Puzzlers’ is the final chapter in the nine album career of one of experimental rocks most jaded treasures, Sightings. The record, intended as a complimentary album to their 2013 release ‘Terribly Well’ is the oxymoronic climax of their unique style of damaged rock, driven by irregular guitar changes and nervy, sporadic vocals and a relentless rhythm section.
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I think I’m slowly moving from anger to the acceptance stage in the process of mourning the break-up of Sightings. Over the last fifteen years or so, Sightings have developed an utterly singular musical language that’s as weird and idiosyncratic as say the Magic Band, except rather than being a reconfiguration of raw blues and psychedelia, Sightings’ sound takes its nourishment from the harshest post-punk, the nervy atonal funk of no-wavers like DNA, the blown-out rock deconstructions of Fushitsusha and the hard-nosed abstraction of hyper-minimalist Raster Noton style electronica– all thrown in the blender with a healthy splash of ‘fuck you’ Harry Pussy attitude.
This record perfectly captures the surprisingly intricate sense of dynamic tension, spatial awareness and textural experimentation woven into the crazy, in-the-red speaker-melting intensity of their sound. Just listen to surly opener ‘Counterfeited’ with its rattling broken-speaker drone, weaving drunk bass line and the buckling wheeze of John Lockie’s hybrid drums; everything breaking sporadically into an aggressively primitive steamrollering chug, the bass making gorilla sounds under Mark Morgan’s wired ranting and frazzle-fried guitar.
The longest track, ‘Syllabus of Errors’ opens up a brooding soundscape of rippling textures and patterned distortion in which guitar, drums and bass are virtually indistinguishable until fragmented shards of notes emerge from the primeval abstraction like those silvery smears on the cover. Then we get the final blast of ‘I Steal From My House’, in which the drums sound like a degenerate offcut from an Autechre track and the guitar shrieks like a rusty JCB in forwards and backwards motion, punctuated by episodic shouting; always doing what you don’t quite expect over an obtusely thuggish, cyclical bass riff.
There’s no band that ever sounded or will sound quite like Sightings- so enjoy this exhilarating closing statement from one of the most original yet overlooked bands of recent times.
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