Anno Fauve is the third full-length release from the shadowy team of British improvisers known as Aufgehoben (formerly Aufgehoben No Process). Originally released last year on the great Riot Season label, a copy just turned up at Dusted HQ, which leads me to believe that it has either been repressed or reissued for reasons that remain unspecified. The group's membership is tough to fully track down, as all parties involved generally seem to dig anonymity (although some extended searching reveals that both The Wire contributor Stephen Robinson and noted guitarist Gary Smith are card-carrying members). The band utilizes a nifty combo of two drum kits, guitar, live sampling and electronics for their basic improvisations, then retools them in post-production while adhering to a general credo of "no bass, no overdubs, no process."
Those six words make for a pretty interesting operating maxim, and while the concept of "no process" would seem to indicate things falling more in line with an attempt at non-idiomatic freeform freakery, Aufgehoben prove themselves to be rock deconstructionists par excellence over the album's six tracks. The sounds here are pummeling, with the recording levels setting up shop firmly in the red. It's an old rock trick that's been used for the years: turning “11” into the norm, and then giving things one giant push toward distortion overload. But do these folks really need any help in conjuring up a swirling mass of breakneck sound waves? I don’t think so.
But more than just detonating familiar rock tropes, Aufgehoben displays a deftness that betrays jazz roots. The music here sometimes comes off like a supped-up version of some old FMP-styled insanity, shot through with an industrial edge that gives their din more ominous undertones. "Solar Ipse," the album's opening track, neatly sums up all the polarities of Aufgehoben, going from sparse rumble to percussive call and response to a howling gale force wind of guitar and electronic maelstrom. In contrast, "Avant Primitiv" comes on much stronger, opening with tumbling drums and queasy guitar lines that morph into one of the most anthemic improvisations you're likely to hear.
Aufgehoben rarely deviates from the extremities mapped out in the album’s opening minutes. Then again, they don't really need to. The interplay here is impressive enough, which makes the singularity of their sound that more enticing. The tempo slows down a bit for the opening of "Doxa Caveat," revealing ghostly figures lurking amidst the clatter, while the massive "Hordes" takes the notion of epic to new heights. All the while, Aufgehoben finds lines between rock, jazz/improv, noise, and a host of other experimental sounds and drops depth charges on all of them, assembling the smoldering wreckage later into their own warped view.
As of this writing, Aufgehoben are hard at work on their fourth record. If Anno Fauve is any indication, that long player will be a doozy. Regardless of the reasoning behind a reissue of an album that's barely a year old, this is a record that surely deserves to be heard over and over again. Plus, if you're like me and managed to miss this one when it was first issued, now is your opportunity to catch up.
[F.Y.I. – This review only address the CD version of this album. Five of the tracks on the digital version are slightly edited on wax, while "Hordes" was completely retooled for the vinyl release.]
By Michael Crumsho