Theta Naught
Gig Seeker Pro

Theta Naught

Salt Lake City, Utah, United States | INDIE

Salt Lake City, Utah, United States | INDIE
Band Jazz Post-rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Make Your Holiday Season a Little Brighter"

Score: 8/10

The Christmas album is one of the hardest things to master, because most Christmas albums just don’t matter. We’ve heard these songs before, and much more often than we’ve desired. During the holiday season, such selections are inescapable: they boom from stores, televisions, and small town speakers. When Christmas Eve arrives, worshippers are happy to hear these yuletide carols sung by choirs, or to sing these songs while wax drips from tiny candles onto nervous hands and hymnals. But during Advent, many would prefer not to hear them so overplayed.

This year’s crop of Christmas albums has been particularly weak. We’ve had entries from Andrea Bocelli (hard to fault, but decidedly mainstream), David Archuleta (arghh!), Tori Amos (what happened?) and Sting (“The Worst Album of 2009,” according to Q – I concur!). We’ve also been treated to A Very Special Christmas Volume 7 (Kellie Pickler!) and NOW That's What I Call A Country Christmas (was this really necessary?). 2009’s highest-profile instrumental-based Christmas release is a 25th anniversary collection from Mannheim Steamroller, until now the go-to group for slightly alternative holiday music. But we’ve heard nothing with the staying power of Low’s Christmas EP, Sufjan Stevens' Songs for Christmas, iLiKETRAiNS' The Christmas Tree Ship, and Blueneck's Twelve Days EP – until now.

And so it is with great joy that I pronounce Theta Naught’s Naught Christmas The Best Christmas Release of 2009. Woo-hoo! And a big THANK YOU to Theta Naught for having the guts to record a Christmas album in the first place. This year, when my father tries to pop in his Yule Log DVD, I’m going to counter with Theta Naught.

At first glance, one might be appalled at the thought of a ten-minute version of “Little Drummer Boy” (although Jonathan Kane recorded a fifteen-minute version a couple years back), a nine-minute version of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and a similarly long version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” But ladies and gentlemen, this is post-rock. The trick is to make such songs sound new: to delve into their familiar melodies with a spirit of adventure and an appreciation for nuance. So yes, Virginia, there are drums on “Little Drummer Boy,” and the melody is carried by the bass, but the banjo and cello eventually take over and lead us on a long, languid journey which suits the spirit of the original composition. A sprightly song now sounds determined, suffused with an indefatigable spirit. “O Come, All Ye Faithful” begins in much the same way, but adds staccato cello draws and a seemingly-improvised tempo rise at the midway point. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” rolls in fields of shimmer before prancing all over the mountains. Every so often, the bass checks back in to remind us of the melody. Is that a violin we hear? And a glockenspiel? Since when did Theta Naught learn these instruments? How often do we hear a band take a traditional, overcovered song and make it their own? Tuuuune!

Five single-length songs (“In a Manger,” “The First Noel,” “Once in Royal David’s City,” “Three Ships,” “King Wenceslas Halls”) stick to the tried-and-true, with melodies upfront yet low-key. These tracks serve as anchors, allowing listeners to recall their bearings while they await the next foray into experimentation. These arrive with “Carol of the Bells” and “Westminster Carol” (which many sing as “Angels We Have Heard On High”). Theta Naught is to be congratulated for including songs a bit off the beaten path; “White Christmas” would have been too schmaltzy and “Jingle Bell Rock” too silly.

“Carol of the Bells” is a particular highlight – a powerful song to begin with, due to its dueling counter-melodies in full and quarter time. Theta Naught captures not only the drama, but the darkness of the original piece, gracing listeners with a particularly exquisite take on the loud-quiet-loud dynamic. From here, it’s not a far cry to 3epkano and Strangers Die Every Day, which means that “Carol of the Bells” may even serve as a post-rock evangelistic tool. The beauty of including such a foreboding piece is that it reflects the fear and anguish of the original Christmas story: the killing of the children and Joseph and Mary’s flight into Egypt. This dissonance has always been part of the Christmas message, but is all too often excised from holiday specials and Christmas albums. Christmas is a triumphant holiday, but its meaning is neutered when celebrants forget the source of the original conflict.

When it comes to Christmas music, post-rock offerings have been few and far between. Perhaps this is because, as TSB’s editor once told me, post-rock artists do not tend to cover other artists. But with results this pleasing, I wouldn’t mind hearing a few more such efforts.Naught Christmas transforms the mundane to the transcendent, helps the old to sound new, and makes our holiday season a little brighter.

-Richard Allen - The Silent Ballet

"Calm the Nerves and Ease Your Spirits: Naught Christmas"

Traditional Christmas music, in my mind, can go away forever and I wouldn’t miss it at all. We’ve all heard the same tired songs every year, usually while in the mall trying to find crap to buy for relatives you don’t even like. Or they’re blasted ad nausea over the radio waves in the hopes it’ll get people “into the holiday spirit”. For most people, though, “holiday spirit” consists of spending too much money on useless crap that’ll get returned a week after you give it, drinking just to keep from killing your family, and stressing out over the myriad of events that you have to participate in so that you don’t look like a scrooge. Do I hate Christmas? Probably more now than I used to, but generally I still like the holiday season. The music, though, has got to go. The only things that keep me even remotely interested in holiday music are the inevitable Christmas song covers that bands put out. This year, unfortunately, has been somewhat disappointing. The Bowling For Soup album outright sucked, the MXPX album was passable but had too much old material, and August Burns Red’s rendition of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was only one song (come on guys, you could make an entire album of Christmas music that would blast grandma right out of her rocker). Then out of nowhere, Differential Records sent me a copy of Naught Christmas by Theta Naught, and this couldn’t have happened at a better time.

Naught Christmas is an album filled with those Christmas classics I so much love to hate, but put through a post-rock filter that not only strips down these overplayed favorites into, at times, minimalist interpretations, but takes the key movements of each song and builds on them to create sprawling epics, most notably their 10+ minute long version of “Little Drummer Boy” and the 9 minute “God Rest, Ye Merry Gentlemen”. I know what you’re thinking, but Theta Naught didn’t take these songs and simply add peaks, valleys, crescendos, and unnecessary wankery to each song. That would be too easy.

What Theta Naught has achieved is a synthesis of the traditional components of each song and the post-rock mentality. Let me explain. No doubt your grandparents or parents have a Christmas CD or two where it’s all instrumental or acoustic versions of classics. It’s easy to break down a Christmas song into its most basic melody, play it on an acoustic guitar, and cash in. It’s also easy to take the basic melody of a Christmas song and use it as a starting point for a brand new sprawling composition, which is what you would think a post-rock band may tend to do. However, Theta Naught successfully marries both of these approaches. The basic melodies are still here, are very key to the entire composition, and are also the basis for the band’s unique creative output.

“Little Drummer Boy” is really the best example of how they do this. Utilizing drums to set the pace, the melody of the song is carried, at different points, by the bass guitar, banjo, harp, and cello. When these instruments are not taking to the forefront with the melody, the band are using them to explore how best to complement and underscore such a well known movements. At times this experimentation is quite amazing, but in some rare moments it doesn’t feel quite right. These off moments are very few and far between and usually only occur when the core melody is subdued behind the band's new additions to the songs. In any case, Theta Naught is both honoring and subtly reworking these classic songs for not only post-rock audiences, but general Christmas music loving audiences as well.

Christmas can be a tough time of year for some people. It can be stressful, demanding, time-consuming, and exhausting, but Theta Naught look to help calm the nerves and ease your spirits with their special post-rock interpretations of these classic songs. I can easily say that, at this moment, I can’t think of another Christmas album this year that I’d rather get as a gift, so pick up Naught Christmas for you, your family, a friend, or someone you care about.

--Rick Gebhardt - Decoy Music

"Abstractions Come Home: A review of Sound Weave, by Theta Naught and Alex Caldiero"

While there is plenty to read and see in the liner notes of Sound Weave – a set of striking blue-toned photos of mountains and lakes, night photos of a full moon and lightning over a city, and the texts of Alex Caldiero’s poems printed in white over the photos, there is no way around the fact that vibrations of breath and gut and steel and wood and electronics are the essence of this brilliant collaboration between a self-styled “Sonosopher” and a group of musicians whose name “Theta Naught” and the titles of several tracks (“fibonacci’s pi,” “axioms that satisfy”) reveal their obsession with mathematics (Darren Corey – Drums, Greg Corey – Lap Slide, Peter Romney – Cello, Jared Stanfield – Keys, Ryan Stanfield – Bass).

Theta Naught most often performs without a vocalist, and Caldiero doesn’t work regularly with musicians (although he has a history of occasional collaboration with dancers and sculptors and musicians). Still, when they got together for a performance at Utah Valley State College a year or so ago, the overflow audience could scarcely contain its excitement at an intriguing weaving of sounds and ideas. The current CD, finely engineered, a thing of aural beauty, necessarily lacks some of the sparks of the live performance, but has its own special and substantial delights.

Improvisation between these musicians and poet begins with someone laying down a groove. Sometimes it’s the voice, sometimes the bass, or the drums and the cello, and the instruments often trade off as the groove continues; but each of these songs, whoever’s got the groove, features ongoing improvisational conversation in the context of that groove. Neither poet nor musicians knew what song or poem the other would offer when they began to record a track for this album on a long day last March, but once one or the other laid down a groove – a rhythm and sonority and minimal melody – the pattern was set that played out over the next minutes. Caldiero’s poems stretch to the measure of the music and the music adjusts to the words; just how the two are transformed by working together is apparent in the second CD of music without words and the one poem, “to harpo marx in heaven,” done a cappella.

“Who we are is how we sound together,” intones Caldiero. He repeats the declaration, breaks it into individual syllables, letters even, stretching and clipping the sounds while the electric bass and then drums add layers, interwoven with keyboard effects and bent magic from the lap steel. There is meaning, of course, in the sentence, just as there is meaning in measured notes and numbers. But marrying music and words, at least in this case, diminishes the chord of linguistic meaning and enhances the voice, with its articulated words, as sound among other sounds.

“Won’t you sit down,” the poet asks, his voice rising in question. The cello’s deep, constant line rises, and, conditioned by the voice, we hear a question. The bass breaks tone like a voice, and the voice growls assent. Vocal cords and cello strings resonate the same sustained note. Abundant rhymes “In the Wee Hours” (“Yr plumbing’s bad / Yr drumming’s mad / You’re just like yr dad / & his dad & his dad / & the mother you never had . . .”) work like musical harmonies; and the hearing mind feels like its abstractions have come home.

Sound Weave is available from Slowtrain Music, Orion's Music, Sam Weller's Zion Bookstore, Ken Sanders Rare Books, Vagabond's Café, and in Provo, Velour Live Music, or from Theta Naught’s website.

- Scott Abbott - Utah Valley University

"Sound Weave"

“Sound Weave” is Theta Naught’s third independent release, but on this album they bring in poet Alex Caldiero for some rather slithering results. The album was recorded in a warehouse in Salt Late City, Utah for three weeks. The album was recorded completely live and improvisational. Now on paper, just bringing in a poet and playing behind them is going to produce great results. But this combination is really special. Alex Calidero’s style of delivering his words is at times over excited but still rather powerful.

The entire first disc contains 12 tunes in which, Alex Caldiero recites his poems on each. “The Invitation” is a striking piece that gets right from the start. Alex’s deliver is very moody and he really gets into it. The music backing him has a sort of sublime eeriness. “In The Wee Hours” has a bizarre feel to it, the piano gives it a sense of paranoia. But simply I love it. “How Long Did It Last?” and “How We Sound Together” really culminate the feeling of this release. “How Long Did It Last” is a brilliant instrument and it is rather dreary and delicate piece. Alex’s sounds like a man on the edge scared and confused. This is a beautiful and awe-inspiring work that needs to be taken in. “How We Sound Together” is simply blissful due to the noises that Alex makes during the song. He really gets into it here. “That One” closes off the album in gentle fashion. The violins come out for this one and a gentle hymn is laid down and a perfect ending.

The album is a very special collection. There is rawness and the scene of pure passion on the record that you don’t find often. The work for being improv is well put together and sounds huge. Also, the band included an extra disc of their own work. The band have a great feel for creating a mood and a downright gorgeous piece to fit it. “Sound Weave” is a challenging listen, but you will be rewarded with a collection of work that certainly is not like much out there at all. The pure passion in these songs is worth it alone. - Comfort Comes


full-length releases:
Omnium-Gatherum (2010) - LP
Naught Christmas (2009) - LP
Sound Weave (2006) - double LP
Abacus (2004) - LP
Something Scientific (2003) - double EP
Dead Trees: Vol. II (2008) - LP compilation
Dead Trees: Vol. I (2003) - LP compilation
Faint Transmissions: Vol. II (2009) - LP compilation
Faint Transmissions: Vol. I (2008) - LP compilation
Silent Ballet: Vol. I (2006) - LP compilation
Death By Salt: Vol. II (2005) - 3 LP compilation
16 and pregnant (2010)
Indie-Pendant (2005)
Modern Miracle (2004)
100 Burritos (2003)



Theta Naught began as an instrumental trio late in 2002. We would play a lot of shows with many different kinds of bands. In the beginning we would always get comments like "hey, do you need a singer?" Some people just didn't seem to get the idea of what instrumental rock music was all about. But we would always get listeners that would be super excited about our performances that would say things like "your music sounds like classic a thousand years!", or others that would compare us to other instrumental post-rock outfits like Tortoise or Mogwai.

Here we are eight years later amongst legions of "post-rock" instrumental bands continuing to do our musical experiments continually defining and redefining new genres like "post-rock" or "post-jazz". We'll be here for the long haul.

Over the years our line-up has changed as we've incorporated new/different instruments and musicians, and our released music has morphed along with those changes. Theta Naught began with a few college kids that were just goofing around and having fun. Now the collective contains professional engineers, professional musicians, and professional educators. All of the Naughtians have received more than one college degree - while we've been able to release several albums, and tour all over the the United States, Japan, and Europe. Theta Naught still has the same musical goals in mind as we did when we began: to continue to develop experimental music, to continue to push the envelope of defined sub-genres, to continue to incorporate our collective knowledge, experience, and emotion into our improvisational compositions.

Band Members