When I tell someone I make “noise music,” almost all the time they give me a polite nod and stop asking about my projects. The average listener hasn’t heard anything close to a harsh noise wall, or seen a noise artist run a contact mic duct-taped to a cake pan through a bunch of effects pedals. It’s well outside of their realm of understanding, and I imagine they’re fine keeping it that way.
By its definition, noise is about as far from the mainstream music listener’s tastes as it can be. But that does not mean it is difficult to listen to or appreciate (though I’m sure more than a few people reading disagree). Nor does it mean it is the opposite of mainstream. This synthesis of the abrasive and the comforting, the scary and the sickeningly-sweet, is exactly what Sightless Pit have managed on their new LP, Grave of a Dog, by far one of the most interesting and exciting records I’ve ever heard.
Sightless Pit is the coordinated efforts of Dylan Walker (Full of Hell), Kristin Hayter (Lingua Ignota), and Lee Buford (The Body)—a veritable supergroup of the dark, experimental, abrasive music scene. Apparently written and recorded over the course of a couple years between their main projects’ brutal touring schedules, Grave of a Dog demonstrates clear influences from each member. Furthermore, it sounds as if each participant was given total reign over their contributions, writing, recording and tweaking sections alone due to the difficult logistics of gathering in the same space.
Despite its piecemeal, long-distance assembly, Grave of a Dog is an extremely cohesive and dynamic record. Thumping, club banger beats pulse in the low registers like the heart of a hungry ghoul. The record is devoid of guitars—instead, reverberant piano rolls and swollen synths fill the atmosphere with melodics, wavering between beautiful and threatening. Above the deep chords and humming highs, the band layers vocals both sung and screamed; Hayter’s operatic singing often mixes with Walker’s guttural, nonsensical growls, both distinct voices occupying the same space with strange animalistic harmony.
One of my favorite aspects of this record must be the small textured sounds that the band sprinkles throughout their songs. The closer “Love Is Dead, All Love Is Dead,” spreads strange clicks and offkey woodwind noises, reminiscent of a child’s first recorder, above the magnificent vocals and low bass beat, letting these noises add heavy tension to an otherwise gorgeous song. The creeping “Whom the Devil Long Sought to Strangle” features raking dissonant chords of an autoharp, before bursting in the coda into brutal, static-washed screaming. Every song is littered with little sounds: pops, tinks, hums and hisses, all tickling the ears like some non-verbal, fucked up Dr. Seuss rhyme.
Grave of a Dog is bursting with noisy, crazy sounds, but the way in which it balances this noise with consonance and catchiness is truly remarkable. Buford’s backbone beats work with the same palette that dominates popular radio: “Immersion Dispersal” makes heavy use of an iconic clap we’ve all heard a thousand times, while the opening track “Kingscorpse” employs pumping bass and rapid trap snares reminiscent of techno-pop. Hayter’s sung vocals are melodious and emotional, qualities only heightened by her application of pop production techniques like octave layering and autotune. Sightless Pit fearlessly walks between worlds, bringing elements of club music and noise together into a surprisingly cohesive and utterly exciting listen.
Without a doubt, I’ve never heard anything even close to Grave of a Dog. Sightless Pit shuffle aggressive experimental noise, meditative melodic passages, and headbanging beats together into a maelstrom of sound, but apply each markedly-different style in restrained, effective strokes, making for a truly unique experience. These three musicians, all celebrated in their own right, come together in perfect harmony, placing absolute trust in one another to bring life to each of their contributions. The result is a record that has refused to leave my head since I first heard it, and I have a feeling it will be lodged there for years to come.
My Top Tracks: “The Ocean of Mercy” / “Whom the Devil Long Sought to Strangle”
Grave of a Dog is available through Thrill Jockey Records; stream it on Spotify or grab a physical copy via Bandcamp. For all things Sightless Pit, go to your local pet cemetery and start digging (not really).