The Sight Below Glider

[Ghostly International; 2008]

Styles: shoegaze, ambient, minimal techno
Others: Gas, Kompakt records, Tim Hecker

I knew I wasn’t in for a cheery listen before I even peeled the plastic from the digipak. On the front is what appears to be a digitally manipulated outdoor scene in a bleak mélange of blacks, whites, and grays. On the back is a tracklisting consisting of titles like “Dour,” “Life’s Fading Light,” and “Nowhere.” On top of this, the producer is intentionally enigmatic, evading the spotlight and opting for anonymity. As it turns out, Glider is a fitting album for an overcast early winter day -- cold and brooding, but not oppressively so.

The most evident influence on The Sight Below’s music is Wolfgang Voight’s pioneering minimal techno guise, Gas. Both projects abound with murky, ominous textures, sound sources that are often obfuscated beyond recognition, and, most crucially, an insistent 4/4 pulse. But where Voight warped and processed orchestral samples to form his ethereal compositions, The Sight Below conjures all of his sounds from a guitar manipulated through an array of reverbs, loopers, and delays. Despite the different methodologies, TSB is so much like Gas that the two artists’ music is relatively indiscernible to newer listeners.

The Sight Below’s approximation of Gas’ art form is done very well, but his work isn’t merely an imitation of Voight’s iconic style. TSB’s guitar loops are indeed repetitive and minimal. However, the live element prevents them from becoming idle and static, his ideas not allowed to ruminate for too long before an element is added or subtracted. To break up the album and diverge from the 4/4 pulse rushing beneath most of the tracks, The Sight Below intersperses the propulsive songs with hypnotic guitar-only interludes (“Further Away,” “Already There”). Here, his style evokes Tim Hecker and Belong. Beneath dark, turbulent storm clouds of guitar, he plays clean, nearly unprocessed melodies, glimmering like beacons of light in the darkness.

While clearly capable of appropriating elements and paying homage to his idols, The Sight Below would do well to aggressively forge his own sound. As is, not only is the reclusive artist's actual identity the subject of inquisition, but also his musical identity.

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