A Year of the Aural Gauge Operation

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A Year of the Aural Gauge Operation Review

by Ned Raggett

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."

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