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Theta Naught
Sound Weave
Differential Records
August 1, 2006

This ambitious 2-disc set harnesses the full dramatic gestalt of deep bass, cello, drums, synth and the incisive power of spoken word. A brooding seven-minute post-rock preamble sets the stage and dodges such description as “like a darker Mogwai” by way of concluding without the explosive climax it seems to hint at, leaving listeners tense and braced for the firm, almost punishing poetry to come. Alex Caldiero’s strong-arm poetics then seize center stage for the rest of Disc 1, conjuring themes at once unnerving, surreal, vaguely apocalyptic and yet disarmlingly objective. It’s a lot to take in a single sitting – best spread out over sporadic listenings – as his poignant and painstakingly enunciated delivery eventually grates as much as it engages.

Accompanying this mind-bending ride is the entirely instrumental Disc 2, featuring eight tracks of the talented band speaking boldly for itself in more conventional song form, as opposed to noir-ish noodling it is relegated to while supporting of Caldiero’s coffeehouse antics. Songs range in length from three to eight minutes and treat listeners to the cathartic triumph the album opener whets one’s appetite for, in track 6 especially, which peaks with a righteous, well-harnessed explosion of guitar squall and crashing cymbals. The strings in the following number nod distinctly to Faith No More’s “Woodpecker From Mars” while the piece before it brandishes a noir-soaked blues keyboard reminiscent of Ray Manzarek. It’s a shame such versatility couldn’t be more evenly distributed between both discs, however the shadowy, metal-spirited heart of this worthwhile beast is a promising contribution to whatever genre future critics divine for it, and the set itself is an definite accomplishment.

Favorite: Disc 2, Track 6

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Steve Gunn is a hard-boiled suburban New Yorker with a PhD in rockology and the propensity to point with full-throttle moxie up to his ears and unflinchingly declare, “Hey! These things ain’t garbage cans, y’know!”

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