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Moritz Von Oswald Trio: Vertical Ascent (Honest Jons Records)
Vertical Ascent may not have much in the way of melody, harmony, or even pre-composed structure, but in comparison to German electronic music producer Motitz Von Oswald’s other work, it might as well be “Turangalila.” During the ’90s Oswald and partner Mark Ernestus produced a series of pioneering minimal techno 12″s, first as Basic Channel then under the name Rhythm & Sound. Minimal may not even be a strong enough term for these—compositions like “Imprint” consisted of little more than muted bass thud and tape-delay hiss. Vertical Ascent, the debut full length record by the Moritz Von Oswald Trio, has a little more going on. But not much. The group—composed of Oswald, Sasu Ripatti (aka Vladislav Delay), and Max Loderbauer—is more live band than studio invention, using percussion, rhodes pianos, and a few effects to create subtly shifting rhythms and abstract textures in real time. Which shouldn’t imply that Vertical Ascent is some sort of googley-eyed Kraut-rock freak-out. The four compositions—referred to here as “Patterns”—still adhere to Rhythm & Sound’s rigorously restrained aesthetic. They don’t blast off, they glide gently and steadily. By using somewhat clunky lo-fi technology Oswald gave his older productions a warmth that, well, balanced out the German-ness of it all. And that warmth is all over Vertical Ascent. Although in this case the clunky technology is a living, breathing person.