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theo - encouragement

Drunken werewolf
May 2009

Theo (a.k.a Sam Knight) is a one-man extravaganza of drums, pedals, guitars, and one hell of a spaghetti heap of ideas. You can box him into post-rock one moment and experimental the next, but you’re still left with all the thrash rock, melodic indie and ambient quirks.
The key tricks Theo has honed into with Encouragement are variety and pace, with songs ticking over nicely before tipping wholeheartedly into directions of angular raw guitar explosions. So a song like ‘Invested in Defence’ starts to thrum gently with glowing guitar harmonics against pleasingly crisp drum crunches in an Explosions in the Sky manner, before becoming a biting rock beast like latter-day Mogwai, and bursting into naggingly melodic spirals of rich guitar textures. ‘Fortress’ uses voice vocoder and strolls along rather pleasantly. But it’s ‘Gallant’ that’s the star track here. Its entrance is dramatically grand with lush curls of undulating guitars and steady sure layers bursting deliciously before ebbing sweetly away into the ether.
The single-handed workmanship of Theo is laudable; there are plenty of ingenious transitions and touches, keeping the listener on their toes, though some editing wouldn’t go amiss. Theo’s songs are largely instrumental, and the want of some vocals to warm things up and add humanity to the excellent music sometimes nags. But, in general, this is fine stuff indeed.
By Miss Fliss

Wonderful wooden reasons
Feb 2009

Theo - Encouragement
(Ingue Records)
Fabulous little post-rock ep of guitar & drums (along with a battery of effects) all played live and simultaneous by one lonely (but very clever) chap from Worcester in the UK called Sam Knight.  Musically it's very reminiscent of the woefully under-rated Ganger with it's math sensibilities and looped melodies.  It's melodic and hypnotic and utterly deceitful in it's apparent structural simplicity but that is purely down to Knight's skill in his craft.
Regardless of the fact that it's a one man band what you get here is simply astonishingly good. The only part I have issues with is the ugly synth sound on tracks 3 and 4 but I can accept that when the rest of the music is this good.
I am truly gob-smacked by how good this ep is.  Buy it now before it's gone forever.

Jan 2009

THEO – Encouragement (Ingue) – A rather enjoyably impressive EP of soundtrack music from a guitarist called Theo. He’s from Worcester (England) and these four tracks are four bright breezy post-rock flavoured uplifting pieces of creative positiveness. Delicate interlocking looped guitar layers of a Battles, Volta Del Mar, Crime In Choir nature – considered, creative, refined, just really enjoyable post rock creativity. Mostly instrumental, only Fortress has the added colour of vocals. Cautious musical steps, all made for short films that your really don’t need to see to enjoy this recommended release.

Live music scene
Dec 2008

‘Encouragement’ is a soundtrack to two short films, entitled ‘Wedding Video’ and, aptly, ‘Encouragement.’ Its tracks are created by a multi-instrumentalist who apparently recreates them single-handedly in a live setting via the use of every such musician’s trusted friend, the loop pedal. Theo’s music builds in layers, similarly to that of some of ambient music’s finest exponents such as Eluvium and Fennesz. However, there is a little more of the ‘rock’ in his post-rock soup than the aforementioned artists. If I didn’t know better I’d suggest that this man is rather fond of Mogwai and is perhaps even something of a prog aficionado. Opening track ‘Invested in Defence’ at times features some dextrous guitar licks that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Yes album, underpinned by some taut riffing and busy drumming. Each time the music threatens to become too repetitive Theo shifts it in a new direction, although occasionally repetition can be mighty effective if the phrase being repeated is potent enough to keep the attention of its listener. On the cricket field this could be illustrated by the nagging accuracy of great bowlers such as Glenn McGrath, Shaun Pollock or Andrew Flintoff. In the musical world it has been employed to great effect by Eluvium, Stars of the Lid and Fursaxa among others.
‘Fortess’ spans two tracks, the first of which has the suffix (intro), and will justify my Mogwai comparison. At times I felt that a couple of additional layers might have given these tracks a little more bite, although at other times the minimalism and the ever-present threat of an explosion did their job admirably. ‘Fortress’ features some heavily sequenced vocal repetitions and some chiming harmonics buried under soft layers of distortion and rattling snares. Lovely stuff. The closing ‘Gallant’ sounds like it features about eight different interlocking guitars, and at times a cymbal that sounds like the striking of an anvil. It segues into a more placid passage towards the end, with some high-pitched synth vocals lending things an ethereal edge.All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable listen and has the potential to be quite stunning in the correct live setting. Ideally, this would be the Reds stage at ATP festival late in the afternoon. I’d be interested to see the films that this music accompanies, although this music definitely stands up on its own. As an aside, I don’t think I’ve ever actually known anyone named Theo in my life. Is it an alias? Is he a figment of our imagination? If so it would be a little strange that this CD had turned up through my letterbox, and so for now I’d say head over to www.myspace.com/inguerecords if you want to give it a listen. There are far, far worse things you could be doing with your time.
By Dave Urwin

Dec 2008
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Theo is a one man sounds cape, casting shadows and bringing piercing light to Worcester, his home town, on the wonderfully diverse experimental ingue records label.
The four leftfield epics contained on @encouragement’ are deftly crafted astral and aural journeys through lush, complex parallel lands. The tracks from the soundtracks to two short films by cautious horses productions called ‘wedding video’ and ‘encouragement’.
Incredibly, Theo’s layered near orchestrated pieces are reproduced live as a maelstrom of programmed loops, locked tight guitar layers and frenetic drum patterns.

Mar 2009

Theo is a one man band hailing from Worcester. He describes his sound as 'math looped melodies with inter-locked guitar layers' and this is quite a good definition of his music. There are no vocals but both impressive guitar progressions and drum beats.Opening track 'Invested in Defence' is a 7 minute long track of frenetic tapping patterns entwined with frantic rhythm and riffs. It really highlights Theo's playing ability and is a very good listen. It is quite remarkable to think that he plays both the drums and guitar live to such a high standard.
The next track 'Fortress' has an intro nearly 4 minutes long, and this is the mind set of Theo's work, nothing can be rushed. It is not as attention grabbing as the previous track but is still a good piece of music.
The album is rounded up by 'Gallant', which finds Theo trying out some heavier riffs and solos. It works very well and the cow bell at the into adds a new dimension to Theo's work.
Although I am not normally a fan of progressive instrumental, Theo impressed me by both his work and his ability on the instruments. A very good record from the soloist.
Written by Dan W

Uk music review
Feb 2009

Theo is a one man band comprised of Worcester based Sam Phillips and a whole bunch of sound loops and guitars. Bridging the gaps between post rock and math rock here with new EP, ENCOURAGEMENT, Phillips makes quite the mesmerising first impression; successfully distilling some of the best elements of Battles and Mogwai into one enchanting whole.
INVESTED IN DEFENCE is a lengthy but rewarding opener, a musical piece that twists, turns and sidles its way along on taut guitar rhythms and subtle beats, Sam Phillips veering from delicate sound scapes to frantic guitar abuse in the blink of an eye, essentially winning you over from the get go. FORTRESS features whispered robotic vocal chants and that same guitar and beats formula, this every bit as gloriously mesmerising as the opener whilst with GALLANT, while the mood may veer towards the more energised, Phillips still maintains that self same hypnotic enchantment, engrossing and bewitching from start to finish.
A wonderful introduction to the world of Theo, ENCOURAGEMENT curiously leaves you both satisfied and craving more in the same breath, a glorious swirl of moody ambience and optimistic guitar grooves, this is truly extraordinary stuff.
Theo is a one man band .... guitars + loops + drums = sound
Review author: Mike Bond CD: Soundtrack ep Release date: 2008 Discs: 1 Asin: ING008 Rating: 9.0

Mar 2009

In a similar manner that records by virtuoso turntablist will never quite replicate the visceral experience of a club set, home listening of one-man Worcester post-rock machine Theo’s output will likely always play second fiddle to his impressive live set up. Nevertheless, ‘Encouragement’, a soundtrack to two short films, bristles with looped magic that has led to Theo’s name being whispered in cult reverence among the instrumental guitar music fraternity. Opener ‘Invested In Defence’ sends tingles up spines, building layer upon layer with the dynamics of Battles, until the results swirl around your head; only the vaguely punch-less drums are less than mesmerising. ‘Fortress’ meanders more, and though ‘Gallant’ never quite delivers on its anticipation construction, as it disappears into the ether, one pressing question remains: with music this emotive, why doesn’t every other film - from shorts to blockbusters - employ a post-rock score?
(Adam Anonymous)