5 out of 5
Label: Odd Halo Recordings
Produced by: Nick Zampiello (mastered by)
Amazing, brutal waves of sound from 5ive guitarist Ben Carr, working solo and in a Skullflower vibe.
The Theory of Abstract Light surely has some narrative behind it, following the track names and their parenthetic addendums (e.g. Self Is Taught (Daemon); His Mother’s Lock (A Broken Memoir)) and the project’s title, but whether you want to piece a story to that or not, the flow between shimmers of percussive-like strums and then stretches of grumbling and expressive ambient noise / feedback should tell their own tale, keeping a listener rapt in the ever-shifting haze of moody, almost poetic, music.
…The Skullflower comparison comes to mind due to the way Matthew Bower (and others) take some very chaotic sounds and allow them to be contemplative, or assaulting, or wandering, or – within the chaos – even pretty. While Theory is ultimately less noisy than Bower’s layers, it has that same flexibility, and is more cleanly sequenced to manipulate the tone as the album proceeds. This is what very much sets this album apart from other similar recordings for me: that it is incredibly paced, such that both 18-minute and 2-minute tracks feel like they take up equal space and time; there’s something very purposeful and patient about the record that makes it hard to turn away once you hit play. Carr even uses those opening tracks (Outside the World’s Fair (1912); Is the Dream…) to lead us in in such a way that we’re not assaulted, but still surprised when things break for a clear bit of strumming.
The 5ive pace / sound is evident here and there, so there’s certainly crossover here. But this is a solo affair, and as such, has a much for personal feeling and affect. While I love 5ive, The Theory of Abstract Light is what had me paying more attention to Carr: the confidence of the rawness and unshowy nature of this helps to show off the artist’s natural sense of rhythm and musicality, which can then be even more appreciated in his other works.