Lockstep Bloodwar by Sightless Pit

Release date: January 27, 2023
Label: Thrill Jockey

Lee Buford (The Body) and Dylan Walker (Full of Hell) return with a second Sightless Pit album of genre melting jams. As you’d expect there’s huge quantities of distortion and Walker’s fierce howl in there but also a bunch of guests and collaborators too. Chucking fistfuls of abrasive sonics and studio techniques taken from dub and hip hop into their filthy blender they crank it up ’til it makes a worrying noise. Lockstep Bloodwar is the resulting cocktail. Gritty, grey, and foaming suspiciously it tastes of dark abjection. The cover model has clearly over imbibed. Please drink responsibly.

According to our hosts this is a dub album. It’s not really dub in the way we usually understand it, which is a calming blend of heavy bass, lots of space, and heavenly echo. Nor is it anything like the recent New Age Doom Meets Lee Perry mix of metal and dub. For Buford and Walker dub offers the loosest of structures, a set of possibilities, a blank page. The tracks they build here are densely layered patchworks of processed sound. They use their usual murk and grime to do it but are more focussed on its texture and flexibility, as if they’re throwing lumps of it around, squashing and stretching it, stacking it up to see how high it’ll go.       

‘Resin on a Knife’ starts with a slowed boom bap over a distant ghostly choir (There’s as much hip hop as there is dub in the mix) and runs a full minute before Midwife’s sweet, blown out, vocal comes in and spends the track smoothing over Walker’s hateful screams. They’re both eventually pulled under by weird rising synth tones and bass wobble, after which a calming static drone and a pale elegiac coda plays out. It’s a minute long but you might miss it and it could easily be much longer, or a whole other track. Across the album ideas come thick and fast, tumbling one into the next, small details and contrasts lurk in the background to catch you off guard.

Even the rhythmic backbone gets torn up and shuffled, different tracks moving in and out, often buried in the squall. ‘Flower to Tomb’ opens with a sped up and fabulously degraded loop which then, I think, alternates with a slower clean version and at least one other beat in a way which subtly mirrors a dual vocal from Lane Shi Otayonii (Elizabeth Colour Wheel). The overall pace of things is sludgy but restless with the beat noticeably picking up and coming forward when Frukwan and Crownovhornz step to the mic. The rapper’s contributions also largely avoid the effects and processing visited on everything else. On ‘Calcified Glass’ YoshimiO’s voice and drums and Walker’s yowl are buffeted by uneasy waves of rolling distortion until the track’s final section where Gangsta Boo pops up claiming to be the devil’s daughter and asking if you believe in god.

If you were thinking the boys might’ve taken the chance to lighten up a little well, you’re mistaken. A short reflection on Gangsta Boo’s recent untimely death or the reasons Kristin Hayter was unable to be part of the project this time can bring you back to its bleak vision. Counter-intuitively the use of multiple guests helps to clarify Sightless Pit’s identity. Building on the experiments of their first album Grave Of A Dog, Lockstep Bloodwar is both broader in scope and more focussed in its particular sound world. Emotionally it might not escape the same dank dungeon where The Body and Full of Hell are found but it sees Buford and Walker at play in the ashes and ruin. On the closing track, ‘Futilities’, Foie Gras offers us a playground sing-song “the world’s a sightless pit, the world’s a sightless pit”…

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