The sophomore full-length release from SINE marks the culmination of the Austin-based artist’s Mantis trilogy, showcasing her continued development of what founder Rona Rougeheart has dubbed “electronic boom.” Certainly, the description is apt as her drumming background once again shines through the intensity and intricacy of the rhythms she presents, juxtaposed with sensuous atmospheres that are as darkly melodic as they are erotically menacing. Rougeheart’s acerbic yet inviting vocals seem to slither atop sharpened layers of steely bass, electrically charged pads, and gritty beats; however, it is the particular treatments and manipulations of her voice on Mantis that provide its most potent feature – befitting the album title for its intoxicating and insidious character.
Songs like the appropriately titled opener “Attack” with its steely bass tones, the subtle incorporation of crystalline pianos and dramatic choral flourishes on “Control,” and Daniel Beaty’s notably spirited guitar accompaniment amid percolating synths on “Jetset” demonstrate a darkly scathing sense of melody and disharmony that recalls the earlier sounds of Nine Inch Nails. Other songs take on a somewhat more trippy vibe akin to Massive Attack, like in the ghostly fades of subsonic bass and repetitions of “Ooh-la-la” on “Je Suis,” the slinky metallic beats and jazzy android noir melodies of “Until,” or the glitchy electronics and overdriven textures of “Blurred,” while “Future Whores” could easily be mistaken for a long lost Curve track, Rougeheart’s breathy delivery eerily reminiscent of Toni Halliday. “Soundtrack of a Wasted Recovery” is also a standout as it presents pensive and meditative waves of strings and splashes of piano, the conspicuously obscured vocals adding to the somber reverie that would not be out of place in a ‘60s arthouse film a la Antonioni or Godard.
Completing the collection is a set of remixes, with Adrian Sherwood’s rendition of “Attack” being the first and most powerful, replete with the renowned producer’s dub sensibilities, including bouncy horns and staccato pianos. The Pop Group’s Mark Stewart somehow manages to make the already creepy “Je Suis” even more so as his rhythmic spoken word and variable treatments of the warbling bass line are given greater resonance with the addition of Twin Peaks samples, while the Sour Gout remix of “Blurred” and “Control” by Leæther Strip will do well to transport listeners back to the early ‘90s.
SINE’s 2019 INSOMNIÆ debut had already demonstrated Rona Rougeheart’s powerful concoction of darkwave melody with abrasive electronics and industrial/rock stylings. With songwriting and production assistance from Charles Godfrey, Mark Pistel, and Curse Mackey, Mantis Complete resolutely amplifies and polishes SINE’s strengths to ensure that the “electronic boom” resonates long after the album’s runtime has elapsed.