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SIGHTINGS - Amusers & Puzzlers

Format: LP
Label & Cat.Number: DAIS Records DAIS 074
Release Year: 2015
Note: final album by the now disbanded experimental/industrial/noise/drone/punk-"rock" trio (not really categorizable) from New York City, recorded at the same as 'Terribly Well' (2013); rough, energetic, low-fi, rousing, but also more silent "smoldering" phases are present, with a pretty unique sound... "the industrial noise-rock equivalent of stumbling upon a barroom brawl" [Pitchfork]; lim. 500
Price (incl. 19% VAT): €22.00

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"After the release of their well-received ninth studio album, Terribly Well, and their successful month long European tour in 2013, Sightings did the unexpected and quietly disbanded without notice or explanation. More than 15 years in the trenches and making a mess throughout New York City, the band made more of a polarizing impact to formalized underground music that most of their peers. Sightings would have been a national treasure if the whole country was laid to waste in Armageddon.

During the sessions that birthed Terribly Well, a complimentary album was recorded in tandem which, while not intended to be their final statement, produced the jaded epilogue from the mouth of experimental rock’s most lasting monolith. Amusers and Puzzlers is the schizophrenic culmination of their brand of damaged rock. Isolated noise patterns shifted from Mark Morgan’s unorthodox guitar patterns sewn up from his nervous, scattered vocal phrasing. Richard Hoffman’s stampede-like momentum on bass slammed against Jon Lockie’s drum triggers made the past couple decades crash into itself.

Limited to 500 copies with cover art/design by Bill Nace (Body/Head)." [label info]


"Sightings’ sound was the industrial noise-rock equivalent of stumbling upon a barroom brawl, and that gnashing, mangling jumble was integral to the late NYC trio’s appeal. Spitting bile through clenched teeth, Mark Morgan conjured flanged wastelands via guitar; Jon Lockie pounded primal, desperate drums; and Richard Hoffman whipped up hypnotic, Lotto-hopper basslines. At Sightings’ most ferocious, on uncompromising slabs like 2002’s Michigan Haters and 2005’s End Times, these elements entangled so thrillingly and violently that they became impossible to separate.

The band unexpectedly called it a day in the spring of 2013. Recorded during the sessions for that year’s Terribly Well LP, Amusers and Puzzlers feels less like a swan song than the inevitable next evolutionary step. Though the crude no wave of 2002’s Sightings would give way, over the years, to sharper fidelity and songcraft and the odd stylistic tangent—check 2004’s Arrived in Gold, a photo-negative spin on the band’s enervating convulsions—true change surfaced with 2011’s Future Accidents. The 19-minute long instrumental "Public Remains" ushered in a studied, queasy ambience that split the difference between cut-up drone, dub, and gutter blues. Indeed, this muted malevolence would carry over to the wordless cyborg whirr and stammer of Terribly Well’s "Yellow"—even as the surrounding tunes snarled characteristically, if less caustically.

Amusers and Puzzlers strikes a similar balance of short order bomb-out and wandering balm. "Counterfeited" segues from squirmy bass-led melodic figure to crazed percussive thump and back, as guitars seethe and squawk off in the corner. "13" strains, stipples, and thrums, all sandpaper tension and slurried distortion; the pulverizing "Trials of Peter" shoves in every direction at once. "1982" imagines a manic atonal triptych—short-circuiting guitar next to irrepressible bass bounce next to coiled drumkit OCD—then slowly increases the tempo as Morgan transforms into the world’s most unhinged carnival barker; it’s like listening to a punk song being fed into a clogged garbage disposal.

The irradiated, 16-minute "Syllabus of Error" casts a long bummer of a shadow over the rest, representative of The Ghost of Sightings Future in a way that "Public Remains" and "Yellow" could only hint at. A brittle patchwork of drones thrumming at various frequencies and abrupt static smears, "Syllabus" feels unsettling, haunted—at once slighter and more haphazard than its predecessors. Gorgeous, aquatic guitar chords drift idly past or flame out curtly; feedback threatens to knife the variegated din. Glassine, sonar effects sound. A rattling buzz lends the tableau an additional air of menace that eventually consumes any warmth that might have been implied early on. This was clearly the direction Sightings were headed in, and had they soldiered forward, it would have been fascinating to hear where they'd eventually wind up." [Pitchfork]