Aufgang: Aufgang

Aufgang is the brainchild of pianists Rami Khalifé and Francesco Tristano (who met as pianists while studying at New York's Juilliard School) and drummer Aymeric Westrich. Avid club-goers, Khalifé and Tristano developed a passion for electronic music that helped dissolve—in their minds at least—the barriers separating classical and dance music forms (ot long ago Tristano also attracted attention for his 2008 collaboration with Moritz von Oswald titled Auricle Bio/On, which consisted of two twenty-minute tracks). Animated by a roller-coaster propulsion fueled by improvisation, Aufgang's electronic-classical-jazz-techno fusion can be dense in the extreme, especially when electronic elements and drums are added to the the pianos' layered clusters and sprinkling cascades. There's often a motorik quality to the material too, as befits an outfit where keyboard patterns must precisely interlock in order to maintain clarity in its music-making.

Four years in the making, the hour-long self-titled collection ranges widely in the styles sampled. “Channel 8” alternates between animated passages and darker funereal episodes of lugubrious character (a vaguely hip-hop-flavoured part even shows up in its second half) while the comparatively more straightforward “Barock” opts for a gently swinging feel that gives the piece an almost lilting South American character. For every one that's tightly structured (the title track's tech-house), there's another that feels looser and more explorative (“Soumission”). Many of the album's nine settings are delivered at a breakneck pace (the spirited “Sonar”), which makes the inclusion of “Prelude du passe” all the more welcome. For three minutes, the piece's slow and elegant unfurl entrances—so much so that one regrets seeing it morph into a laid-back exercise in lounge-styled piano jazz during the song's second half.

Admittedly, the album is hardly perfect. Oh, there's no denying the energized attack of “Channel 7” but it at times smacks of a banal fusion marriage of pianos and beats, and at times the material lapses into over-complexity (“3 Vitesses”) in such a way that one longs for more of the restraint heard in the opening minutes of “Prelude du passe.” If nothing else, Aufgang deserves credit for the boldness of its concept: how many other double pianos-and-drums outfits can you think of?

December 2009