Silence is terrifying. Nature is never silent except at its most hostile: outer space, the motionless abyss, windless deserts, solid blocks of ice, bedrock. Silence is either the onset or the effect of something horrific. Silence happens after a bomb explodes, and a silence precedes the firing of a gun. If the soundtrack of a horror film cuts out, it means ‘prepare yourself.’ Aufgehoben’s mastery of tension on Fragments of the Marble Plan fills every open space with anxiety. Each fragment proves the destructive potential of the next, and each void contains the threat of future violence.
This violence is not of the physical sort, though perhaps there is some danger to the eardrum at high volumes. Aufgehoben’s violence splits into a dialectic: conceptual violence aiming at musical forms, ideals, and expectations; sensate violence, which disrupts the listener’s ability to process ideas or conceptualize; and finally silence itself, the culmination of this process and its container, the absence of both real sensation and ideal form. The title Fragments of the Marble Plan suggests that a fracturing of stone laws has occurred; what is left of the former whole floats on the black void of its cover, like a blasted puzzle missing most of its pieces, lacking even a semblance of its former sense.
Each instrument plays a significant role in this movement. One thing is clear across Aufgehoben’s six-album output: they are a complete band, a machine that works together, each piece respecting the necessities of negative space or contributing to the controlled chaos. The dual percussion assault, most clearly in cymbal blasts and snare distortions, fills space and buries rhythms in the mix, or, more likely, generates an image of rhythm where the listener seeks it, though actual forms rarely appear (see “Fruitsofcouncils_shrewd (362b)” and “CuriosityVanityExpediency” for more “rhythmic” tracks). This is rhythm in the sense of concatenating sound and silence; in this way, Aufgehoben’s two drummers are gatekeepers of this violent synthesis. There are two other instrumental elements: guitar and electronics, each of which covers Fragments in dense static textures. Static, too, is a meeting of sound and its opposite, just on a barely audible scale. Timbre and texture define where amplitude occurs within a waveform, but also where it doesn’t. In this way, Aufgehoben’s instrumentalists act as sculptors: They cut away to make each form complete. The final element in Aufgehoben’s structure is production, which consists in the control of volume: the final say as to where silence must occur.
Aufgehoben’s compositional process (or “no process,” as their former band name suggests) violently undermines notions of musicality, paying no heed to traditional phrasing, tonality, and barely allowing a melody to slip through the speakers. But the process of listening to Fragments presents a violence of a different kind: sensory overload, a scrambling of psychic communication, the frustration of the cerebrum. This is not to suggest that there is no pleasure in listening to Aufgehoben; in fact, forcibly abandoning one’s own desires for order contains a strange but powerful pleasure within it. But when the chaos ejects the mind into silence, we are left reeling on two planes. The mind spins its wheels in search of conceptual data, anticipating future blows, and the senses beg for the ocean of static and in its transgressive excess. This effect, however, runs a significant risk: desensitization, which leads to boredom and a breakdown of the listener’s possibilities for the experience. But this is a small caveat. Fragments of the Marble Plan’s strong statement, in all its exhausting vigor, presents us an ordeal of transformative violence that terrifies, excites, and destroys.
02. Whataboutwhen (med3)
03. Ethicsisanoptics (TI23)
04. Fruitsofcouncils_shrewd (362b)
07. Thatwealldothatwedo (1102s2-3)