(Load Records)

With its hyperviolent ur-guitar butchery and relentless dissonance, Sightings' self-titled debut had all the delicacy of a ball-peen hammer being repeatedly beaten into your temples--a terrific smackdown, perhaps, but the unvaried tempo and impenetrable density could wear down all but the most steely noise-rock aficionado. Absolutes shows a little (albeit very little) mercy. Yes, the guitars remain mechanically distorted and torn, like sizzle-hot shrapnel from an accident at a Lockheed Martin engine-testing facility. But there's engineering at work beneath the ripped metallic skin. The harsh white noizbursts stretch and flex, bent to fit within more structured--restrained, even--song forms. Drums which once spat only rapid-fire bullets now pick their rhythmic targets. And the bass, filthy and fucked-up as it may sound, is almost recognizable as a stringed instrument at times. When it's not exploding into fat, bloody chunks, that is. Craziness. Bad craziness. (John Graham)

Feed the Cat
(Laws of Motion/Giant Step)

The debut full-length from Agent K (a.k.a. Kaidi Tatham) finally sees a stateside release after making waves in Tatham's native U.K. last year. Tatham's part of the Bugz in the Attic crew, which, if you haven't heard, is the hottest Anglo import since English muffins--and Thomas has nothing on these innovators of the West London broken-beat scene. Laying down keys as gracefully as Lonnie Liston Smith on a marriage bed of four-on-the-floor house and jittery Afrobeat rhythms, this crew creates a distinctive new version of the Funk. Tatham's hit single, the album's title track, is solid, straight-up broken beat. Structurally, it's a bit more breezy than material typical of colleagues such as 4 Hero or Afronaught. This is true for the rest of the tracks as well, such as the mahogany electro on "Thy Lord" or Afro-Brazilia of "Armz R Deh." Still very much a dance record, Feed the Cat proves that Tatham differs from most producers of the beat science by never going so far from his Rhodes piano obsession as to rule out neo-jazz or soul. This is one of those works that should garner love from those who don't typically go for "dance" records but who enjoy fine, silky explorations into space. (Kai Hsing)