...A collective avoidance of well-trodden pathways, in favour of greater adventure and...
John Eyles 2007-01-19
For their fourth album, Aufgehoben have continued to develop and evolve whilst retaining the core elements that make them unique - an improvising group with a rock sound. That sound is notorious, a huge overblown roar that fills every part of the soundscape, the result of recording with everything turned up to maximum; it sounds deafening at low volumes; at high volumes it is bone-crunching. Since they first appeared at the turn of the millennium, Aufgehoben have cultivated an air of mystery, releasing no information about personnel and playing no gigs. Recently, that changed, as they played their first live gig and full details of the line-up emerged. Given the scale of their sound, it is remarkable that there are only four of them – two drummers, guitar and electronics.
The drummers complement each other well, Stephen Robinson’s no-nonsense, full-on power being offset by rather more delicacy from Phil Goodland. Gary Smith’s guitar style is essentially the one he uses as a solo free improviser, replete with slides, glides, taps and clicks, even though some of the fine detail occasionally gets overwhelmed. David Panos provides an awesome array of electronic sounds that fill up any available space; his presence means that any further instrumentation would be redundant. In particular, he provides a plentiful supply of low-end frequencies, negating the need for a bassist. When all four roar together, the result is a thrilling adrenalin rush. Listen to the middle of “Manotgog” for a typical high spot.
On past Aufgehoben albums, the music has largely been compatible with that huge sound. Thundering riffs recalled rock, especially heavy metal and noise. Here, there are still vestigial traces of riffs – for evidence, check out “Ends of Er” – but only traces. Other rock elements have largely been pared back or eliminated in favour of a freer, more exploratory approach. As always with Aufgehoben, the music here was freely improvised without planning or premeditation; this time around, the difference is that there has been a collective avoidance of well-trodden pathways, in favour of greater adventure and daring.