Album Reviews

Moritz Von Oswald Trio – Vertical Ascent

(Honest Jons) UK release date: 22 June 2009

Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus remodelled and remade techno in the early 1990s. They stripped the sound down to its essence, its core, its Detroit pulse. And then they went on vacation to see King Tubby and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.

As Rhythm And Sound and Basic Channel they laid the foundations for Minimal Techno. The series of 12″ singles they released where a dubbed out route map for new strain of mutant electronica. The heavy echoes of Von Oswald can be heard rippling through the fractured soul ofMassive Attack, the avant dub ofPole and noir dubstep of Burial.

Returning to the musical fray Von Oswald has teamed up with Vladislav Delay and Max Loderberg in a postmodern electronic take on the traditional Jazz trio. The group have weaved a complex rippling soundscape, deep, shimmering and hypnotic. The tracks ebb and flow like daylight through a thick forest canopy. Sounds flicker and dissolve like birdsong, percussion reverberates in thick bass heavy undergrowth, noises slide in and out of the mix. Grooves are locked into, developed slowly, climbing from darkness into the light.

Pattern 1 has spongy low end thump, a rippling metallic counterpoint and swathes of haunted mixing desk reverberations. Over 14 blissful minutes of musical alchemy, rhythmic intimacy and bass tones as heavy as led the Trio to lose themselves in deep inner space. It’s less PIL‘s brutally harsh Death Disco, more a calypso disco biscuit riot. It’s Can‘s inner fights hardwired to Aphex Twin‘s synthpad washes; Brian Eno meets Adrian Sherwood in uptown Berlin.

There is a hushed skeletal beauty to Pattern 2. Metal percussion rattles in dark reverb as lone notes are repeated in sunken wormhole at the centre of the mix. The pace is languid, funeral, gothic. Tiny fragments of electronic chatter skip and pop across the surface. The static hum inches further and further forward until the gentle hum covers the track in a blanket low end of hiss.

Sub bass stress binds together the electronic drum machine rhythms and clipped calypso of Pattern 3. The melodies joyfully bounce from speaker to speaker, dub effects emerging from the mixing desk teasing out the hidden corners of the sound. The closing track Pattern 4 starts full of dread. The four note bassline taut, weaving in and out of the stereo phasing and insistent trebly rhythm track. Von Oswald makes heavy with the dub, warping, reversing and versioning the music into a haunted musical surrender.

The project seems miles removed from the frantic over-extensions of a freewheeling jazz trio. No extended solos, no manic one thousand notes a second detours. The restraint and supporting nature of the playing is closer to that of a classic soul band. The music seems to breathe organically, each musical part pushing forward but towards a common goal. Is this dub soul? Soul dub? All we know is that it’s spritely, laconic, bass laden – and a crucial listen.

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Moritz Von Oswald Trio – Vertical Ascent