If you know what Francis Bacon did to Velazquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X, then...
Peter Marsh 2004
Every now and again a record comes along that defies you to ignore it, and here's one of them. This is the third album from Aufgehoben, an English outfit whose members like to remain anonymous (though it's known that improv guitarist Gary Smith likes to put in the odd guest appearance). The band never rehearse, meet only to improvise and then painstakingly edit and process the recordings of their efforts.
Let it be said, this is noisy stuff. Though there's a similarity to the distortionfests of Merzbow and the like, Aufgehoben are essentially a rock group. Their feral, faintly psychedelic assaults recall the fuzzed out meanderings of Faust or the acidic blast of Guru Guru, played back through a stereo system on the verge of collapse during an electric storm. Smith's trademark stereo electric guitar lurches from huge feedback sweeps to submarine blips or sheets of power (dis)chords. I've not found much to enjoy in Smith's previous work, but here the context seems just about right asAufgehoben's twin drummers spar with each other or lock into monumental psych-rock patterns that Smith tries to force apart with jagged bursts of noise. Nice.
There are slivers of electronics too, but Aufgehoben's approach to the studio (which essentially means turning everything up to 11) makes it hard to tell who's doing what. It also makes for a deeply satisfying rush at times, particularly when their sludgy rock pulse is accelerated into viscous gobs of noise or howls of feedback. If you know what Francis Bacon did to Velazquez's portrait of Pope InnocentX, then you'll have some idea of what Aufgehoben are doing to rock music; reducing it to a violent, nightmarish smear of a thing. It's cathartic, ugly, beautiful and hard to ignore. You might not want to listen to it everyday, but there'll be times when nothing else will do. Nasty, brutish and short.