Grave of a Dog by Sightless PitRelease date: February 22, 2020
Label: Thrill Jockey
Obviously, we should’ve seen this coming from a fair distance and perhaps been a little less slack-jawed and amazed when Lee Buford (The Body), Dylan Walker (Full of Hell) and Kristin Hayter (Lingua Ignota) announced they also had a side project they’d been working on together. I guess we just thought they were busy enough with their own impressive outputs and the various ways they already cross pollinated. An inevitable consequence of the collaborative creative community that swirls around The Body, Sightless Pit is a tastily seditious inversion of the rock power trio. Breaking out of its occult geometry of perfect planes in pursuit of something less neatly bounded.
Grave of a Dog isn’t all fluffy puppies, but it does see them turn aside from the focused extremities of their main projects to create something that’s looser, even playful. Nothing here is so wildly out of character as to cause confusion or alarm but it ventures into some new places. The first couple of tunes are built on tough programmed beats. ‘Kingscorpse’ opens on layers of Hayter vocals, glorious blown out textures scrape over skittery snares and Walker’s ragged howl is stretched out and submerged. The effect is kind of like Salem’s ‘King Night’ ripped on meth and black metal.
Throughout the album Hayter and Walker’s vocals play off against each other across industrial drones and distorted noise. They’re both such extraordinary vocalists it’s impossible to tell how much they’re doing with their voices and where it meets the studio tinkering that builds the tracks but picking it apart isn’t really the point. Walker’s vocals in particular warp and expand into a field of textured sound. On ‘Immersion Dispersal’ he brings a barking, howling layer over the pumping bass and robot claps, scratching against smooth synths and even a little vaporwave tape flutter. Of the three he’s strayed furthest afield. There are no guitars on this album and while a couple of moments could conceivably be Lingua Ignota, and Buford’s production might just about pass any of it off as The Body there’s nothing you’d mistake for Full Of Hell. Walker’s voice is still an ungodly rasping scream but it feels less vicious and direct as he tests out different approaches, exploring it as sound itself not just a channel for rage and pain.
‘The Ocean of Mercy’ starts with a vocal loop and beat grind like a work song or march. It sounds like the flying devil monkeys from The Wizard of Oz. Slow church organ winds alongside making a pool of calm as the procession stops. It comes crunching back in with Hayter’s dramatic voice high above. “Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow” There’s some Tolkien vibes as her vocal double tracks and rings defiantly out from the mountain top but having made a stand it fractures into cut ups and soft loops. As if we’re left on the mountainside ‘Violent Rain’ fades in with the rumble of the valley below. Hayter’s pure clear voice floats against Walker’s howl, an ill wind ahead of the storm. Distracted piano notes spin in the air, her voice frays and warps with auto tune and the squall passes. The track quiets down to slow piano over fading drones, all the way to the incidental sound of the keys and pedals.
That’s as relaxed as it gets. ‘Drunk On Marrow’ rides in on a pounding beat and a shadow synth line, Walker’s growls are twisted into crunching blasts of sound. The track is pushed forward on spare piano chords and a wailing note like a freight train, an unlikely improvised machine. The industrial thud and tension that opens ‘Miles Of Chain’ shifts to Walker gurgling in a deep well of haunted drones. Stronger in the second half of the record the horror atmospherics come to the fore on ‘Whom The Devil Long Sought To Strangle’. Like a reanimating room of toys, from broken piano and a slowly thumping electrical storm a rhythm builds and grows, cuts dead for some indecipherable, possibly backwards, voice and then crashes headlong into a full blooded scream and noise onslaught that ends as abruptly as it began. It’s almost like a window opening into what we might lazily have expected the record to be.
Grave of a Dog is not exactly easy listening but it does not crush or scour the listener, the mood is light-ish although the last couple of titles are almost comically dark. ‘Love Is Dead, All Love Is Dead’ is a Hayter piano ballad floating in haunting ambience on a deep electric pulse. Love is not dead but its sleep is disturbed by the squealing complaint of machine wheels. It possibly gets a little too close to self parody but then blunt statements of dark thoughts are something all these artists do well. The usual emotional intensity, particularly of Lingua Ignota’s stunning Caligula, is absent here making space for a sonic curiosity that fills the tracks with subtle layers that reveal more with every listen. Who knows if this will become an ongoing counterpoint to their other work or a one off thing? Either way, it’s a fascinating record.