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Aufgehoben - Messidor

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Artist: Aufgehoben

Album: Messidor

Label: Holy Mountain

Review date: Feb. 23, 2007

Extremes aren’t new, either conceptually or practically. Noise isn’t new. Electronic noises aren’t new. Improvisation isn’t new. Innovation itself, the almost obsessive search for it, especially isn’t new. But somewhere packed into the moth-eaten language that make up our descriptions of the genre, the latest record by British noise quartet Aufgehoben finds its purchase, evincing a vitality that suggests new directions even if its craft doesn't.

Messidor is a catechism of noise techniques both old and, admittedly, recent. The significance behind the names - from the moniker on down - is a curiosity; Aufgehoben is translated in the “small print” as “cancelledpreservedsuperseded,” hinting at the process by which the group puts music to tape (even if chosen for Germanic guttural punch rather than semantic subtlety). The tactile gestures pieces used as foundation are revealed first in improvisation, but then recorded, reworked, revised and re-mixed; the rawness of spontaneous performance is both restrained and polished into a well-tuned machine shifting through gears of intensity. “Messidor” is the tenth month of the French Republican Calendar (from Lat. messis, “harvest”); “Shibboleth” alludes to linguistic origin (piece or title first? prim(ev)al music?); “Rückfragen” is a German word for queries (by whom? to whom? linguistic? philosophical? digital?); other titles are neologisms echoing Biblical, mythical, medieval idioms. The features of naming, language in general, don’t present alliance any more than the components of performance/recording re-present an identity outside all this noise. Both are process and product.

And the product on Messidor is sublimely executed stuff, industrial in the way of '80s dirge messiahs, organically unfolding as an improvisation, tenuously orchestrated as collective work (a lá Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza), brazen in stride with newer generations of noise purveyors. None of the elements involved feels artificially applied as an outside constraint to the album’s sound. Instead, the choices of electronics, the natural feel of improvising on rocks and paper with scratched strings and percussion skins, and the movement into amplified harshness and back out again shows the organic underbelly to the violence on Messidor. If you could philosophize glass breaking, slow it down in time to watch it decay, and then rearrange those parts into a new kind of sound…well, then you’d still find yourself preferring Aufgehoben’s assemblage.

By Joel Calahan

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