A year of the aural gauge operation
Häpna H.26, CD
9 tracks, 59 minutes
3/4HadBeenEliminated was founded in Bologna, Italy, in 2002. Starting as a trio (guitarist/double bassist Stefano Pilia, turntablist/sound assembler Claudio Rocchetti, sound architect Valerio Tricoli), the drummer Tony Arrabito was added to the line up in 2004.
Their first self titled record (bowindo, 2003) was released after playing a series of live concerts in which the group attention was strongly focused on the performative/theatrical/ecological aspects of the event. Comprised of a large number of electronic and acoustic instruments, the album mirrors the disparate musical influences and aesthetics of the group: live electronics, electroacoustic composition, field recordings, drones...
In the following two years, after exploring and experimenting with self invented recording techniques, 3/4s modus operandi focused on live interaction between electronic and acoustic instruments within a context in which the studio itself (tape machines, mixers, effects...) and the actual space in which the interaction took place (weird microphoning, feedbacks...) were considered and manipulated as instruments themselves (not by chance 3/4s are fans of musicians such as This Heat, P16.D4, Todd Rundgren...). In this process, improvisation and group playing were the main issues, whereas 3/4s first release was more based upon electroacoustic découpage.
The goal 3/4s is trying to reach is that of unifying in one moment the three steps of songwriting, recording, and electroacustic post-production. This is done in a brilliant way on their new album, A year of the aural gauge operation, which was recorded in their own studio in Bologna in 2004. It features nine songs composed after live improvisations, all of them quite different in genre, but again 3/4s aim is to create a psychedelic musical flow, one in which new elements and different styles can be superimposed to enrich and develop the peculiar narrative of the album. 3/4s generally thinks of it as an opera.
More info: shiftingposition.org
Tracks: 1. Widower, 2. Labour chant, 3. Shifting position, 4. Wave bye bye to the king, 5. Monkey talk, 6. Loop recorder in the patient with heart disease, 7. In every tree a heartache, 8. Fun with nails, 9. As of yore
This supergroup among the new wave of Italian experimenters put out one of my favorite records of 2004 and returned in late 2005 with another favorite. Members Valerio Tricoli, Claudio Rocchetti, and Stefano Pilia represent some of the most mystical, lyrical music Ive heard come out of Italy or anywhere in some time. 3/4, their collaborative group, now with percussionist Tony Arrabito, make brilliantly inviting and adaptable music mixing melancholy chamber acoustics, ambient improvised textures, and woven electronic and mechanical effects.
The sound is a lo-fi trio, languishing in a woody, golden room, half-asleep and wading through brushed textures and sad crescendos, while the fourth cuts into everything with slow slices of field noise, the occasional glitch-pop or little breaking object. In my review of their first record, I talked about the way these interruptions, rather than leading outside, or becoming immediately contrastive presences, instead work at saturating or carving out an existing environment. Incidental sounds pop into existence as guidance for the more conventionally song-like structures or become buried markers for shifts in the mood or momentum of a song, arriving with an arbitrary quickness that is never forced, always magical.
The general, droning quietude of the groups self-titled debut made the subtlety of their methods more effective than it is on Year, a record more reliant on percussive, pop forms but also infinitely more lush in its assemblage of sonic details. Vocals appear for the first time, and the musicians seem more confident in articulating even the smallest, potentially intrusive elements (including shrill alarm sounds and canned screams). All in all, the sound is less veiled, less overcome by Pilias exquisite, Lid-ian guitar drones and more comparable to ambience in the natural world: more irregularities and lopsided rhythms, more chatter and clatter.
Recognizable field captures from ocean and woods direct the mood more towards the pastoral than the monolithic, sublime abstractions of the bands first disc, but Years mood is just as hard to isolate and should appeal to many tastes, from post-rock, to jazz, even glossy, symphonic rock or the most austere of experimental or contemporary classical. My most obvious comparison is the recent work of Dean Roberts, with whom several of these Italians have worked, and who likewise embraces the synthetic punctuation of melancholy acoustic sound in the creation of ornate, baroque masses of sound as opposed to ascetic dissolves. Though the out-of-improv feel of most of this disc tends to conjure ethereal imagery, each moment remains a monument to grandeur and presence, in sound, in life.
Andrew Culler, Brainwashed
A Year of the Aural Gauge Operation is the second album by Italian quartet 3/4HadBeenEliminated. Like recent music from their peers Renato Rinaldi and Giuseppe Ielasi, 3/4HadBeenEliminated transpose buzzing pools of insect chatter with rich, swelling drones and movements that gesture toward song. Its another kind of post rock thats far removed from the genres typical signification. Where previously the term may have evoked slack-wristed, head-nodding fusions of jazz, electronics and rock, groups like 3/4HadBeenEliminated engage in nothing less than the molecularization of rock music, reducing it to a dense, evocative slurry of phantom tones and fleeting, melancholy phrases guaranteed to induce déjà vu.
Italy seems to be a hot bed of new music activity over the last few years. First it was My Cat is an Alien. Then it was a turn for Stefano Pilia and Giuseppe Ielasi. Now, we get 3/4HadBeenEliminated - a full fledged quartet! [...] 3/4HadBeenEliminated makes their debut as a quartet on their latest release "A Year of the Aural Gauge Operation". In fact, their first release as a quartet is a subtle grab of the rock tradition, while maintaining a strong, firm grip of the experimental idiom. Newest member of the group is drummer Tony Arrabito, who joins the regulars - guitarist / bassist Stefano Pilia, turntablist/sound processor Claudio Rocchetti and sound architect Valerio Tricoli. To say that the music is about a certain sort of a dire feeling would be an understatement. Atmosphere prevalent on the disc is one of morbid eeriness and dread. Field recordings - various cricket sounds, wind, and bells - make sure the listener is fully engulfed in what's going on. Getting back to the whole rock thing, the quartet really does know how to rock. Check out their easy-rhyming spiels on the gently thrilling "Monkey Talk" or better yet listen to the positive-humming feedback loops on "In Every Tree a Heartache". The most frightening piece on the record is the nearly 12 minute finally "As of Yore". In between the burst of laptop noise, turntable machinations and guitar feedback, we hear low-spoken voice, along with an accordion that brings the entire record to its close. Just about every track on the CD makes an attempt to integrate distinct ingredients from rock idiom, noise, field recordings and improvisation. To that effect, purely for their overwhelming effort, I'll give this album an eight out of ten.
According to Hapna's supplementary information for this record, the Bolognese quartet were keen here to produce a series of songs composed during improvisations mixed with electroacustic 'post-production' processes that take place in real time instead of being introduced during a later phase. Care and attention was paid to how the sonic peculiarities of the environment were channelled through the customized recording equipment and how prerecorded material should be introduced into the sound. All of which feels a bit like a more detailed "No overdubs" sticker, but fair play to the group: the results more than justify their methodology.
Expanding from a trio to a quartet for their second release, 3/4HadBeenEliminated move to an understandable spiritual home on the Hapna label, home to many things murkily artistic. Perhaps that may sound like damning with faint praise, but one thing that's enjoyable about A Year of the Aural Gauge Operation is how it suggests a variety of groups and sounds without specifically sounding like any of them. For every moment of shadowy, almost film-soundtrack style arrangements, there's a sudden burst of turntable scratching from Claudio Rocchetti or an upfront burst of acoustic strumming and plucking, yet the emphasis is on blending rather than contrasting sounds. The arrhythmic, blunt drum hits from Tony Arrabito on "Labour Chant" both cut across and perfectly suit the low, moaning drones and echoed scrabbling noises in the background, while "Wave Bye Bye to the King" feels like a short story come to life, a film noir treatment made all the more atmospheric by the drum shuffles and the air of looming threat as the song progresses. Opening song "Widower" sets the mood, to the point where by the time Valerio Tricoli's vocals come in at nearly six minutes, the soft, semi-whispered singing feels more like an additional extra element woven into the arrangements -- not buried, but not the raison d'etre of the piece. If any band bears a comparison, it might actually be Laughing Stock-era Talk Talk -- there's the same sense of crumbling-at-the-edges with the jump cut arrangements and sudden spurts of sound -- but to the quartet's credit, they don't specifically try to clone that legendary group (then again, to be fair, Tricoli's singing couldn't match Mark Hollis's no matter how hard he tried). Slyest song title (for one of the best pieces at that): the Roxy Music-referencing "In Every Tree a Heartache."