Sightings / Mouthus

Through the Panama / Saw a Halo

(Load; 2007)

By Clayton Purdom | 30 December 2007

The history of my critical relationship with noise music is, let's say, "checkered" -- by which I mean, an unmitigated disaster. So, I've been going through old reviews lately, and I'm feeling clear-eyed. I've tarnished Cokemachineglow's reputation with piss-takes on worthy releases by Pissed Jeans and Wolf Eyes. I have Boris reviews that shirk responsibility and make dumb references; I bump into the genre's name and blithely orate thereupon; I tinkle these reviews, and everyone is worse for the experience. It'd be easy to take it as a matter of intimidation, but in this moment of frankness believe me when I say that I am not intimidated by noise music. I've come of age in noise-friendly areas, getting baked and listening to knobs twiddled and amps abused with earnest wobbling intent. I'm okay with this shit. I like it when it's good. I want to comfortably review things that aren't by Def Jux.

It's in a spirit of fealty to the Glow and reconciliation with this poor and great realm of music that I hereby recommend these two -- gulp -- noisy releases by the mighty Load record label, which also brought us this year the righteous filth of Clockcleaner's debut. Which of these two fine records to purchase depends largely on just how you like your noise. To make things easier for us all, I've extrapolated like a motherfucker and produced a text-based "wizard" to help figure out which is the right record for you.

Do you prefer:
A) Silent Hill or B) Resident Evil 2?
A) Alien or B) Aliens?
A) Black One or B) Pink?
A) The Road or B) Cat's Cradle?
A) Francis Bacon or B) Heironymus Bosch?

Now wipe the marker off your monitor and tally up. If you picked more A than B, Mouthus's depraved Saw a Halo will be your unremittingly austere shit. As is often the case with these musicians that hold "musicality" in utter disdain, prolificacy is the name of the game here. At seven tracks Saw a Halo is a swift and decidedly unpleasant primer to the bleakly pastoral sound of Mouthus. The loneliness and ruined landscapes implied in the song titles finds manifestation sonically not only through druidic moans and circular radio-signal guitars but also in the very production of these elements. Everything is in its rightly horrifying place: percussion is kept at a basement clatter and the when the black noise does come in layers they are cleanly delineated, as if every member of the band is playing in a separate room of the same crumbling house. The ultimate effect here is one of epic isolation, although occasionally, as on album closer "The Gift of Sighs," the harshness is offset with an astral beauty.

If, however, you picked more B than A, then you, like me, prefer your noise cut with at least a passing acknowledgment of the listener's existence. (For the record, I go B, A, B, A, B.) Sightings' excellent Through the Panama is more drunk than stoned, more zombie than vampire. There is nothing hammy or glib here, but moments like the "Here they are" intonation of "Debt Depths" remind one more of the Stooges' user-friendly anti-everything climaxes than the hatescapes of Mouthus or Wolf Eyes or even Hair Police. I'd like to give some credit to producer Andrew W.K. for making tracks like "This Most Real of Hells" feel so snarling and amplified, in that it's the collision of machine guns and interwoven explosions and caged-beast vocals that makes the track so satisfactory, but I fucking hate Andrew W.K., newfound patron of noise or not. Sightings shirk the occasional (accidental?) melodiousness of Mouthus for shrieking atonal antics, a sort of temple built using only the most puerile facets of rock and roll ideology. It is not fun to listen to, in other words, but it sure as fuck sounds fun to have made.

(Sigh.) That was serviceable.