As you might recall, The Sense of Time was one of our favourite records of last year here at the Evening of Light HQ, Sjaak Overgaauw having pushed his improvisation/composition skills to great heights with a long album that was really varied and dynamic, and with a perfect balance between light and dark ambient.
With that album and some recent live material fresh in mind, I must say The Theory of Nothing initially disappointed me. While the prelude builds up very strongly, “Suburban Souls” is understated, an almost quiet affair of gentle tones and thin aural smokescreens. It’s actually a very good track, but it falls flat after an intro that promises more intensity. As such, the album relinquishes its grip on the listener after the first five minutes, and ten more seems like a long time to win it back. Things start looking up after this, though, with “After Dark” and particularly “No Way Out” building up a nice dark tension with deep and sharp synth pads providing a steady base and the occasional piano chord serving up the melody. Very good, but not all that different from the best moments on this year’s earlier live album. “Tunnel Vision” provides some very minimal calm after these intense tracks, some puffs of steam and dark clouds, a distant beat, but all very faint. It’s all good, but not as exciting as most of the pieces on The Sense of Time. Overgaauw saved the best for last, though, the twelve-minute “Every Second” being an achingly beautiful and gentle piece comparable to last year’s “Darkest Hour Pt. 2”, and the track that ultimately redeems the album.
Perhaps this all sounds more negative than it is meant. The Theory of Nothing is most definitely a high quality ambient album, and one that doesn’t outstay its welcome, so there’s no reason not to give it a chance. It’s only in comparison to what Overgaauw achieved with The Sense of Time that it starts to pale a little. Make of that what you will.
Reviewed by O.S.