Thursday, 14 November 2013

Theme - On Parallel Shores Removed (2000)


Older, more obsessive readers will doubtless remember that year when all those power electronics kids discovered the first Black Sabbath album and started recording wall of sound feedback-riddled guitar dirges about how murder is cool and Hitler was excellent, probably due to someone finding out that Fred West had been into Pink Floyd or something of the sort. Anyway, as with anything, a lot of it was shite, although Ramleh, Skullflower, and Splintered were okay, the latter of these three sounding sort of like a noisy Public Image Limited or something, at least on the CD I heard. Theme seem to be the ambient version of Splintered at least in so much as they were formed around three members of that band, one of whom was "Richo" Johnson, editor of Adverse Effect fanzine and the man behind Fourth Dimension Records.

I recall Adverse Effect fairly well, not least because of its rigorous stance against artists recording on cassette whom it dubbed time-wasting wankers on the grounds that anyone who is truly serious about their work will surely blah blah blah...

I also vaguely remember their review of The Sound Projector - a magazine to which I was then a contributor - a review informed by an  unfavourable Sound Projector review of the Theme album, if that isn't too recursive a statement. Jennifer Hor hadn't thought much of On Parallel Shores Removed, and it was therefore hilariously suggested that she had probably listened to it whilst being repeatedly shagged by surfers on the beach or at the barbecue or somesuch, and had therefore not given the masterpiece her full attention - Jennifer Hor being Australian and her name sounding a bit like whore - do you see?

Oh my sides.

Well, that's how I recall the pants-shittingly funny riposte in question, although having long since flogged my own copy of the self-important rag on eBay, I couldn't say for sure that I have all those details quite right. The point is that I have had no strong reason to feel well-disposed towards this "Richo" Johnson being as, aside from one Splintered CD, nothing else with which he's been involved has really struck me as particularly amazing. On Parallel Shores Removed drones on for the usual length of time with mains hum, drum machines, effects, loops, and one track featuring a female vocalist which is actually pretty decent, but it has the feel of noodling experiments, none of which did anything particularly new or amazing in the context of when it was released, and Theme being a group begs the question of what the other two were doing during recording. Maybe one of them makes the tea and the other just sort of dances a bit when they go on stage, although you would think at least someone might have looked up from his newspaper at the end of the session and suggested that maybe the track needed just a little bit more going on, or that drum and bass invariably sounds shit when saggy old industrial tossers try their hand at it - with only one exception coming to mind and he isn't on this album.

Seriously, this sounds like music you would have recorded on a four-track portastudio and then left alone because you never worked out quite what to do with it; and ironically it would have sounded acceptable as a cassette release of someone just having a go, but as a fancy, shiny compact disc, and a fancy, shiny compact disc produced by someone who spent a lot of time telling everyone else to pull their fucking socks up, I'm tempted to wonder if he wasn't just taking the piss, particularly given a title reeking of a thirteen year-old Pink Floyd converts idea of meaningful. This album refutes Fourth Dimensions declared view of format as some sort of guarantee of commitment and hence quality, although the logic of that whole argument was always a bit screwy in any case. Theme's first album was born of vanity publishing and is in essence industrial music fanfic, which is a pity because Splintered really were very, very good.

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