For their fourth album, Theme’s Richard Johnson and Stuart Carter have picked up Faust’s Jean-Hervé Peron and Budapest musician Zsolt Sörés to pad out their already exciting sounds. The three barely restrained improvisations that make up this LP show a group that knows how to cook in the studio. At times tense, at others serene, Theme manage to cover a huge amount of ground with a fairly limited palette of sounds.
Side A solely consists of the title track, a long and exciting workout from the group. For this piece, the group consists of Johnson, Carter, Sörés and Zsolt Varga who play with the sort of loose playfulness that brings this "difficult" music in from the cold and into my living room like an odd but thoroughly entertaining guest. Gurgling electronics and almost unpleasant violin come together to make a rich, intoxicating mixture which lies somewhere between the fun side of free improv and the messy side of ambient electronic music. The vocals give the piece a more earnest feel as the phrase “Poison is the word” intensely chanted along with some nihilistic imagery like "Death is always too late." This could put a bit of a downer on the music but the whole thing has a power to it which nearly lifts the stereo off its perch.
Peron makes his appearance on the two pieces on side B, "Baszd meg az apád!" and "Puszta Psycho." The former begins roughly in the same vein as the title track but quickly heads off in a different direction as the dense, noisy improvisations begin to break up and space out. As a saxophone spurts out at its higher registers, Peron’s babbling voice suddenly emerges from the background, sounding otherworldly. "Puszta Psycho" comes right back down to earth with a blanket of gorgeous, shimmering dulcimer (or something similar). Recorded in Budapest, it is easy to imagine ghosts from the city’s Ottoman past inhabiting the instruments. It is a superb piece and I wish it went on for an hour.
Initial copies of the LP come with a bonus CD-R, No Emotions Catered For, which features two pieces from an incoming full length album by Theme. For these two pieces, Olga Drenda and Lukasz Kozak join the core of Johnson and Carter. There is a different vibe to these pieces compared to those on Poison Is (Not) the Word, this is more melodic and, dare I say it, musical than the main album. "Another Context Revealed" sounds like The Angels of Light or a softer version of Swans, Michael Gira’s vocals would fit like a glove over the gently strummed acoustic guitar and vibraphone. The beginning of "Dream Your Dreams" has more of a folky feel to it, thought with a creepy spoken vocal over the sweet fingerpicked guitars. It then dissolves into a cosmic drift that sounds closer to Coil’s Musick to Play in the Dark than anything else on earth before shifting in style yet again into a nightmarish locked groove.
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