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Moritz Von Oswald Trio - Vertical Ascent

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Artist: Moritz Von Oswald Trio

Album: Vertical Ascent

Label: Honest Jon's

Review date: Jul. 20, 2009

Sterling techno credentials doesn’t guarantee great live music, but the Moritz Von Oswald Trio manages to bridge in-the-studio and on-the-fly sound shaping quite successfully on their debut Vertical Ascent. It probably doesn’t hurt that Moritz Von Oswald (Basic Channel, Rhythm & Sound, Maurizio) and Sasu Ripatti (Vadislav Delay, Uusitalo, Luomo) have passionately engaged with non-techno styles such as modern dub, vintage reggae, jazz and classical music, while Max Loderbauer (NSI, Sun Electric) has had a business relationship with Can’s Spoon label.

The trio do work plenty of the intricate, propulsive beats and feel ‘em in your breastbone bass frequencies that should please their established fan base, but they’re at least as likely to stump the faithful by straying from that four-on-the-floor pulse. The way their endlessly variant polyrhythms and seamlessly blended electronic textures blend and weave might speak more directly to unreconstructed fans of In A Silent Way or Soon Over Babaluma.

Playing synth, Rhodes piano and tuned metal sculptures, as well as computers and effects, Oswald and his partners have developed a hybrid sound that not only hurtles like traffic on the autobahn; it throbs like a good King Tubby mix. On “Pattern 1,” Ripatti’s metallic percussion ratchets up the tension by varying how far he gets ahead or behind the machine groove, and there’s a breath-like rhythm to the give and take of the other two men’s swooping synths and hovering organ fills. “Pattern 2,” on the other hand, is an auditory hall of mirrors. The echo on each strike of a metal bowl or berimbau varies slightly while bells chime and ghostly tones ripple in the background; the deeper you listen, the more you hear.

“Pattern 3” is even more absorbing. Soft piano notes drift from within the rhythmic matrix of hand-stroked metal that shimmers and dances like neon-lit calypso crossed with dance floor-oriented gamelan. The constant streams of sounds moving in and out of the grid, leaving and returning, feels even more like the work of diaphragm and lungs that “Pattern 1.” “Pattern 4” closes the album with an edifice of massive sub-bass and equally substantial keyboard swirls. It feels indomitable, but at the same time little bits of sound flake off and spin away in eddies of echo that bump against each other, like whirlpools in a turbulent current. It’s the sound of decay and rebirth, of music being made and remade in the moment.

By Bill Meyer

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