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Aufgehoben - Fragments of the Marble Plan

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Artist: Aufgehoben

Album: Fragments of the Marble Plan

Label: Holy Mountain

Review date: Jun. 22, 2012

Thirteen years into Aufgehoben’s existence as a group, Fragments of the Marble Plan is their sixth album, arriving four years after the fifth, Khora. The new album derives from recording sessions held between August 2006 and August 2008. The group personnel remains as it has been since Gary Smith joined in 2000, four players with overlapping initials DPGSR — David Panos on electronics and noise, Phil Goodland on drums, Smith on electric guitar and Stephen Robinson on drums. The four play as an integrated unit that’s as tight as those initials, with no one in the spotlight. As usual for Aufgehoben, the raw results of the recording sessions have been radically transformed through extensive editing, processing and mixing by Robinson over an extended period, with the other members offering their views on interim results. The final version usually bears little resemblance to the original recordings, certain sections having been emphasized through the process of editing and re-editing, but as always in his post-production, Robinson shows he has an ear for rhythm, be it a beat or a subtler pulse.

Often, the end product bears the telltale sounds of the original instrumentation, with a trademark brutality that has attracted all manner of metaphors to describe it. Here, the LP release of the album carries a cover sticker that is part hype, part description, “This music is war — with all the fascinating horrors and grisly casualties inherent in that endeavour. Get a helmet.” Such a description is fitting much of the time — most notably on the explosive “ActsRoman(s)” and “Ethicsisanoptics (T123)” —but it does not encompass a track such as “CuriosityVanityExpediency,” which plays down the violence, replacing the hard edge with waxing and waning bass tones punctuated by percussive interludes. If that music is war, it is more clinical than hand-to-hand combat. Yes, away from their trademark barrages, Aufgehoben are capable of their own brand of subtlety.

Significantly, this is Aufgehoben’s first album recorded after they played their first live gig in December 2006, to effusive reviews. Since then, they have been as economical with live appearances as with album releases, to date playing just 10 gigs. Fragments of the Marble Plan shows no signs of having been influenced by their live excursions; in fact, the 27-minute “Jederfursch” on Khora gives a better impression of Aufgehoben live than anything here. By contrast, Fragments of the Marble Plan contains nine tracks with an average duration of less than five and a half minutes each; it would not be fanciful to imagine that the album title refers to the more fragmentary nature of its tracks.

Given the scarcity of their gigs, it may well be that Aufgehoben are biding their time and waiting for just the right live recording before releasing the live album that seems to be their obvious next step. Meanwhile, this album bears all the Aufgehoben hallmarks and continues their winning sequence of studio albums. As they have done since day one, Aufgehoben define their own territory and retain complete mastery of it.

By John Eyles

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