Hong Kong’s The Sinister Left have built themselves a solid reputation on the local scene since 2005, yet their new album stands to gain them more attention than ever. Giving nods to Joy Division, Interpol and Editors, the band draws influence from the best of the post-punk genre, but still finds space to experiment and incorporate a slightly psychedelic tilt.
As its name would suggest, Soot is cloaked in darkness and clouded with complicated emotion. The polished production quality pays off: singer and guitarist Nathan Inciong’s Tom Smith/Ian Banks smoky baritone has never sounded more arresting, purring menacingly alongside Stu McCutcheon's moody bass notes and jagged guitar cracks. When he leans in close to the mic to annunciate every syllable on Medicine, the triggered spinal shivers echo the track’s swirling reverb and shimmering percussion.
Themes of madness and a preoccupation with the macabre weigh heavily on the mind, through the gothic tango of Juan the Vampire, the shuddering reverb of Heartworm in my Head, and Medicine’s skin-tingling whispers.
The best is saved for last: The Coldest Man in Summer is a paranoid six-minute slow builder of tinging cymbals, fuzzy delay, and the delightfully weird refrain, “Stop shaking my hand”. It finally pokes its head out of the clouds with a Doors-esque psychedelic outro of reverse pedal noodling, Inciong wailing like a seagull on a mental ward.
Eerie, tragic, wonderful music that gets under the skin and swirls stubbornly in the psyche.