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The Lead Review

Comrades In Arms: Sightless Pit's Grave Of A Dog
Amanda Farah , February 20th, 2020 09:58

A collaboration between Kistin Hayter (Lingua Ignota), Lee Buford (The Body) and Dylan Walker (Full of Hell), Sightless Pit's debut Grave of a Dog finds a raw equilibrium amongst its different voices

Photo by Jeffrey Beaulieu

A state of shock will eventually wear off. Whether the trauma is personal, political, or environmental, a time will come to take the first steps forward, and the natural inclination is to find others to take those steps with.

Sightless Pit, a collaboration between Lee Buford of The Body, Kristin Hayter of Lingua Ignota and Dylan Walker of Full of Hell, has a post-shock disquietude in their union. Their debut album, Grave of a Dog, is built by their own descriptions on broadly nihilistic themes that lack some of the end-of-the-world specificity we’ve become accustomed to. Even without a clarity of angst, these are artists who all work from different angles of what it means to be raw as a performer: in volume, in vocal timbre, in lyrical vulnerability.

While this is the first formal collaboration across the three projects, any devotee of one will have crossed paths with the others; the Body and Full of Hell released two full length albums together, One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache and Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light and Hayter has made appearances on each of their records.

What is immediately striking about the project is that the identities of each of the performers are firmly intact. Each of their strengths are still identifiable, but because two will often cede the spotlight to the third for a track, it is easy to overlook the intricacies of how the pieces have been stitched together.

It’s the spirit of collaboration that downplays the adventurousness of the album on initial listens. A song like closing track ‘Love is Dead, All Love is Dead’ sounds more like a Lingua Ignota song than a collaborative effort on the first or even fifth listen because Buford and Walker are willing to subsume their contributions. The suppressed, arhythmic heartbeat pattering through the track is a faint suggestion, while an electrical whine will only tweak the ears of those who still have their high frequency hearing.

Sightless Pit - Grave of a Dog unboxing from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

These subtleties make up a fair portion of Grave of a Dog. The thudding, scraping beats of ‘Drunk on Marrow’ fade into a soft steady percussion, a trundling piano padded out by rising synths — all of which is easy to miss beneath the fierceness of Walker’s raspy shriek. ‘Immersion Dispersal’ softly climbs along slowly rising synth strings, bringing to mind the split when old film burns on a projector.

It could be that having worked together so much previously each of the artists has developed a reverence for the others’ work. There is delight in the full-throttled, more obvious composites such as album-opener ‘Kingscorpse,’ whose pitch-shifted, multi-tracked vocals from Hayter and shrieks from Walker compete with Buford’s elastic programming. As an opening track it’s impossible to ignore and sets the perfect tone for Grave of a Dog as a personification of modern angst; the album plays out like a mood swing of rage, despair, and an ennui that threatens to consume.

It’s in that ebb and flow that Sightless Pit as a trio have found their balance. There is space for softness and melancholy. The organic is allowed to creep amongst the distorted or the electronic. Noise is only meant as a temporary shock to the system, not as a punishment to be endured. Even the pairing of Walker and Hayter’s vocals shows the dichotomy of their techniques; if Walker is only allowed one note, Hayter pulls on the full range and force of her voice.

It would be easy to create a narrative around Sightless Pit as a group with a leader directing their vision. Walker could be painted as a de facto frontman by virtue of the dominance of his voice. A different story could focus on the triumph of how Hayter conveys her emotions amidst sonic chaos. And it wouldn’t take much more than a creative remix for Buford to make this an album by the Body.

It’s this communal spirit, this composite of expression, this malleability that captures more of a zeitgeist than any declaration of the band on the futility of it all. Indeed self-preservation, whether in music or in life, hinges as much on your ability to change tack as it does finding suitable comrades in arms.

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