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Through the Panama

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Album Review

While Sightings' 2007 album got a fair amount of attention due to its producer — longtime Load Records freak/ally Andrew W.K. — Through the Panama is hardly I Get Wet, which doubtless pleases all parties involved. From the start, with "A Rest"'s aggressive throb of screeching, stuttering feedback rising and falling like a queasy loop from a My Bloody Valentine show in hell while singer Mark Morgan delivers the lyrics in a calm, singsong style that cuts clearly through the chaos, Through the Panama makes a hell of a mark. It's Sightings' best release for Load yet, absolutely snarling as much as instantly catchy, and as such fits in with such other releases on the label (like recent White Mice) rather than somehow sticking out. Some songs, like "Cloven Hoof," sit fully in the still-whatever-you-want-it-to-be noise genre — roiling bass growls, dank guitar stabs, percussion loops and clicks, an embrace of compelling atmosphere without needing a hummable melody to be memorable. Morgan's speak-singing adds the hook more often than not, but even then is not out to make it easy, his muffled yelps on "Certificate of No Effect" and drawn-out slurred sighs on "Degraded Hours" hardly being easy listening. Yet perhaps the most inspired moment lies in both the choice and method of performing the one cover version on the disc — "The Electrician," Scott Walker's majestic, terrifying portrayal of fascist torturers in Chile, which first surfaced during the Walker Brothers reunion era. Adapting the unnerving electronic/rock/orchestral arrangement with ease — the way the guitar and bass almost seem to hover in the air at the start catches the breath, while the stuttering breakdown toward the end sounds like a dying machine, or worse — the band's only slight misstep is that Morgan's voice can't quite capture Walker's admittedly nearly unique power and grace. It's a small complaint, though, about such an inspired attempt.

Biography

Formed: 1997 in Providence, RI

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Sightings' deconstuctionist noise rock removes the melodies and hooks of standard rock & roll, leaving a mash of growls and feedback -- from the high-pitched grind in the guitar strings to the groan inside a bass amp. It's a destructive post-punk mess that beautifully references weird outfits like Einstürzende Neubauten as well as the early-'80s no wave scene and noisy contemporaries like Wolf Eyes, Black Dice, Lightning Bolt, and Ruins. Sightings formed in New York City in 1997 with Mark Morgan...
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Through the Panama, Sightings
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