Theme, 2007 Recorded and reworked sporadically between sometime in 2002 and March 2005, the second CD by Theme, 'Our Angels Dislocated', was finally released in Spring 2006 and features fantastic sleeve art by UK sculptor, Mo Jupp. Following the group's debut, 'On Parallel Shores Removed' (Fourth Dimension/Tremor Recordings, 2000), it expands on the organic atmospherics explored there and comprises five pieces which drift into each other like slowly melting icecaps over approx. 45 minutes. Utilising everything from found sounds and field recordings to violin, guitar, piano, sitar, cello and other instruments in an essentially digital environment, the group draws from psychedelia, Minimalism, Eastern music and their own backgrounds in post-punk/industrial/noise music to create contemporary yet progressive pieces of a mostly filmic nature. A third album appeared on Israel's Heart and Crossbone label in late 2009. Entitled 'Valentine (Lost) Forever', it caught Theme in a more rhythmic and somewhat blunter mode, plus featured a remix by former Siouxsie and The Banshees founder and songwriter and now solo artist, Steven Severin.
For the first number of years of their existence, Theme were essentially a trio (Stuart Carter, Richard Johnson, Hassni Malik) sometimes given to collaborative work or reconfiguring their music, with the addition of lengthy spoken word passages, for occasional live appearances. However, since 'Our Angels Dislocated', Hassni left the group and been subsequently replaced by guests such as Jeanne Boyer, who appears on the 'Valentine (Lost) Forever' album, and Olga Drenda, who joined the group for an appearance at the Wroclaw Industrial Festival in late 2010 and will appear on the next album (scheduled for 2012).
Besides the three albums, they have also had work previously remixed by Band Of Pain for a compilation CD track issued with Adverse Effect magazine in 2003 and they debuted live in the Netherlands at Nijmegen's legendary Extrapool in March 2004. They have also played other shows in Poland between December 2005 and the present, plus embarked on a short series of dates in Hungary and Poland with Faust's Jean-herve Peron and Budapest's Zsolt Sores in early September 2011 (following a studio recording session with them that will partly appear on a release in LTCo's present 12"/MLP series).
Each member of Theme has a long history of music involvement, with experimental-rock group Splintered standing out (with countless releases and three radio sessions, including two for the late John Peel, behind them) as both the most prolific or recognised and from whose incarnation in 1998 Theme rose to begin with.
Stuart Carter also has a solo concern, The Fields Of Hay, whose debut CD, 'Songs for Nine Ladies', was released on Fourth Dimension Records in 2007. It features several guests, including E.A.R.'s Sonic Boom, Lumberton's own Richard Johnson (Theme, Splintered), Lukasz/Zenial, Maria Husarska and others.
Besides all of this Theme activity, a CD set by Splintered gathering a few of their now out-of-print singles and some additional material should appear in early 2012 on a label subsidiary of Finland's Freak Animal. Further Splintered activity has also been mooted, along with some other ideas...
Review by Mike Wood for Foxy Digitalis
For this second release, the trio comprised of Stuart Carter, Richard Johnson and Hassni Malik–the latter two are Lumberton label honchos–create an electro-acoustic gem that manages to be inspiring and distant at once. Using droning sitars and gentle violin deep in the mix–to great effect halfway through “Jisatsu” and “Repeat To Fade”, Theme break their own meditative grooves at odd points, bringing the listener both back to reality and ready for the next groove.
The space-jam of “A few words failed” seems out of place. here, but any bad tastes are quickly banished by the next track, “East of Now”, a droning where instruments take center stage in front of the electronics to produce a hypnotic, moving minimalist drone.
The finale, “ Our Angels Orbit Future Places”, amplifies the barely audible chants of “East” and add children’s voices to the piano driven drone; this helps end the record with grace and a generous helping of frail humanity too often lacking in ambient music.
At times it is hard to tell whether this record is a meditation on failure or hope, but the last few tracks tip the band’s hand in joyful surprising clarity.
Review by DJ Astro for Psychotronic Zone
Theme is a British ambient trio who have previously released one CD titled On Parallel Shores Removed (Fourth Dimension/Tremor Recordings) in 2000. Our Angels Dislocated was recorded in between the years 2002 and 2005, and contains about 45 minutes of very nice, soft, organic and atmospheric soundscapes. The first, shorter track “Jisatsu” is experimental ambient, a weird but pleasant opener. The over 15 minutes long “Repeat to Fade” has some acoustic guitar and ethereal sounds including electronic pulses. A pretty nice, relaxed and subdued track that is a bit frightening, as well. Then follows ”A Few Words Failed” that is rather psychedelic track with sitar and electronic noise being quite small-scale and monotonic, but it does also has some little action in it. The peaceful and meditative number “East of Now” also has some vocals. The beginning of “Our Angels Orbit Future Planes” is mixed together with the end of the previous track and is mostly minimal drone in one note, although there are some samples and other stuff towards the end. This is a very pleasant experience and worth checking out if you’re interested in soft but at times a bit dark ambient that’s recorded with computer but also has some organic elements.
Review by Frans de Waard for Vital Weekly
And some people just take their time. A lot of time. And why not? Theme's first album 'On Parallel Shores Removed' was released in 2001 (see Vital Weekly 247) and after that things were mostly quiet, apart from an odd concert around my corner, which I sadly missed. Theme is a trio of Stuart Carter, Richard Johnson and Hassni Malik, formerly part of Splintered, in which they sliced guitar and field recordings together. On this new album, recorded over the course of four years in various places, they play sitar, guitar, piano, indian pipes, violin, keyboard, voices and field recordings. Unlike some (many?) others of the former UK noise/guitar scene, Theme works with an updated sound, taking notice of whatever is 'new' in the world of experimental music, without copying these new genres straight away. Rather they go back to their own instruments and to figure out how to play, say Pan Sonic, with the means they have. In 'Repeat To Fade', they succeed quite well. Theme connects the present and the past, taking their old influences and style figures into the newly found musical interests. Maybe the chanting at the end of 'East Of Now' sounds a bit ridiculous, through this second album Theme knows how to capture a great, dark atmosphere, without falling into the all to easy traps of 'dark ambient' or 'gloomy doomy music', but adding their own finely flavored sounds and interest. Both modern and old are united here in a more than excellent way.
Review by Tom Sekowski for Vivo Records' Gaz-eta
A trio that splits their time between Poland and UK, Theme are a project who takes their ambience quite seriously. Even though their second release "Our Angels Dislocated" is a mere 45 minutes in length, it still manages to instil that unique ambient feel from beginning to its dying breath. Stuart Carter, Richard Johnson and Hassni Malik utilize field recordings, found sounds, sitar, piano, violin, cello all processed through a digital environment. This isn't really ambient music in the still mode. It has more of a flowing quality to it. Almost like a river, it simply meanders smoothly, uninterrupted from one theme to the next. Truth is, everything feel natural, including this persistent split second, steam release noise that accompanies the album from the outset. Otherwise, gentle violin movements along with occasional piano lines and sitar passages makethemselves known for brief periods of time. Almost like prank telemarketers who call you at the worst time of the night - they appears one minute and are gone the next. Perfect sleep-inducing music or something you may want to use as a mind soother of sorts. Like a fog, Theme draws you in and before you know it, you're in "their" world. Minimal to the core but brimming with ideas for future albums on the road ahead, Theme are an outfit that will surely do interesting things in years to come.
Our Angels Dislocated is the third release from Lumberton Trading Company and the second release from the in-house band Theme, featuring label curators Richard Johnson and Hassni Malik, with Stuart Carter. Our Angels Dislocated features soft, unfocussed drifting atmospheres where each of the five tracks flow into each other, allowing the listener to take it as one piece or as individual tracks. Where there previous release On Parallel Shores Removed toyed with beats and post-rock mannerisms Our Angels Dislocated has a lightness of touch with nothing hurried or overworked. Sounds emerge and evaporate amidst a dark but not threatening atmosphere. On 'Repeat To Fade' waves of hushed electronics ebb and flow, picking up and discarding repeated guitar notes, isolated piano chords whilst a machine throb pulses continuously throughout. Towards the end a quietly spoken verse appears. The droning pipes and reverbed keyboards that appear on 'A Few Words Failed' merge with location recordings in a downbeat psychedelic manner. Eastern instrumentation adds a surprising spiritual dimension, especially on 'East of Now' where a cyclical keyboard billows attain a soothing tranquil effect before some chanting takes it on a much more meditative journey. Our Angels Dislocated is a minimal affair fusing organic, electronic and found sound in a low-key release that is introspective and quietly effective.
Review by Matthew Amundsen for Brainwashed
The production quality is impeccable, yet this gives the music a glassy sheen that keeps it from becoming intimate. For me, songs like "Jisatsu" and "A Few Words Failed" are too cold and clinical to be used for meditative purposes, and too unsettling to be relegated to the background. Things do warm up a bit with the chanting that appears on "East of Now," accompanying instruments that finally reveal their organic origin, but this track almost seems at cross-purposes to what transpires previously. The end of "Our Angels Orbit Future Places" contains a forlorn piano and children's voices that bring out a humanity previously absent, something the group could have explored further. Much of the material seems to lack something, like vocals or some sort of visual element, but I can see how performed live this really wouldn't be as much of an issue with the proper setting and context. Too many of their sounds, not to mention the mythology they invoke, remind me of Coil, which isn't too great of a leap considering Sion Organ mastered the album, but they do suffer in comparison. Even if not a whole lot of new ground is broken here, they create decent dark ambience, I only wish that there were more things to encounter in the shadows.
Review by Andrea Vercesi for Chain D.L.K.
Theme is a trio hailing from Brighton, UK. They have been around since the split-up of their previous band Splintered in 1996, but this is only their second work to date. They create a dark & hypnotic blend of ambient whose glitchy and ethnic detailing mixed together give birth to a quite unique sound. The second track "Repeat to Fade" starts with a simple but effective guitar part, then gradually turns into a sinus-nightmare in the vein of COH or other fellow Raster Noton artists. In "A Few Words Failed' we have a repetitive droney sitar topped with frequencies, resulting in a hybrid mutant of minimal electronics and some weird post-industrial ethnic perversion. The fourth track is called "East of Now" and has some cool Indian chants in it. A mention must be made at the flawless production and at the artwork/packaging. Highly recommended if you're into post-industrial acts as Zoviet France, O Yuki Conjugate or even Coil's later ambient works - just sit back on your opium couch and enjoy this record.
Review by Roger Batty for Musique Machine
Theme’s second album investigates nicely defined filmatic, ambient and drone textures. Utilizing electronics, sitar, Indian pipes, piano, violin etc. Making a album of pieces that conjures up vast often half-lit landscapes and strange uncharted lands, to loose ones self in. Repeat To Fade is the longest track here at 15 mintues, Starting off barren guitar notes and dread filled ambience that reeks of slowly forming malevolent shadows, along with growing electro pulse that has the feeling of a stack or trapped animal. The whole track is swimming in a very eerier light. The guitar disappears as the minutes tick by, the electro edges growing in intensity and depth almost forming into a machine like pulse. Deathly modified piano tones are added, following the slowly creepy ambience melody at the tracks base. You almost think you can see your own breath and the room is slowly closing in on you, as the feeling of isolation and dread is built on beautifully. It really has a great uncomfable feel, as mumbled dialogue is added using stereo panning. Towards the end the pace slows and slips in black atmospheric tones, of an airless factory. East of now almost has a Tangerine dream like vibe with its swing melodic pluses, but with slightly sombre air to the proceedings. As the track devoples layered Indian is chanting added, then main electronics melodic pulse drops out, leaving electro rthymic pitches and Indian drone like textures. This all deepens the sort of mystical sinister vibe, like watching some strange Arabic procession for animal headed gods. As the track exits it adds in some nice synth florishers. A very rewarding album, that grows in shape and depth the more you listen to it. Offering a very rich and varied sound journey to get lost in.
Review by Steve Pescott for Terrascope
These Lumberton Corp. boys are certainly the king-pins when it comes down to eye-catching sleeve art. At first glance the cover of Theme’s latest CD resembles a Martian TV test-card, with a weird silvery contraption (c/o sculptor Mo Jupp) in the process of beaming out signals to the population of the red planet. The ‘Our Angels Dislocated’ release is an intermittent project that began in 2002, a couple of years after their debut (on Parallel Shores Removed) emerged. This was an album that radiated several shades of dark, via formless / imposing synthetic gauze, found sound flotsam and electroid chatter. In the interim, ‘O.A.D.’ has cultivated an array of more arresting tonal colours though the trio of Richard Johnson, Hassni Malik and Stuart Carter are more inclined to embrace the purples, mauves and yellows of bruised flesh than optimism’s blue skies and bright shiny rainbows. Their arsenal of eclectic instrumentation can set the ancient world against the unknown, as in ‘Jisatsu’, a loop and backwards guitar vignette, and ‘A Few Words Failed’ where further textures from the Indian sub-continent are overshadowed by the movement of what seems to be a set of vast sliding steel doors. ‘East of Now’ is a firm favourite and edges back to European shores. It’s moog (I think) and organ loop paints a picture of a rather severe, early Cluster experiment but those traces of early Krautrock are ushered out as a monastic choir (recently activated from suspended animation) enter from the wings. A sympatico production by Sion Orgon (who can also be found on the previous album as an “audio mulcher”) has seen Theme calmly step out of their own skins and into some inter-dimensional ghost world. A subtle transformation for the trio and one that should certainly fascinate anyone into the cutting edge of filmic soundcraft.