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Moritz Von Oswald Trio - Vertical Ascent


When artists announce collaborations, it’s always easy to see or hear our musical imaginations run away for a while, although this is usually tinged with a bit of melancholy for me anyway, as they inevitably fail to live up to expectations. The idea of Von Oswald and Sasu Riipatti teaming up with Max Loderbauer summoned up images of vivid dubtechno soundscapes, but then I realised it’s 2009 and not 1996.

If you’re expecting techno, then it’s fair to say that this album of exploration is not going to be for you. The heritage of 70’s German rock seems to play a central role here, but for me the drumming of Riipatti, who subtly forces his way into being the central focus, is the key. Similar to Von Oswald’s collaboration with Craig last year on Deutsche Grammophon, this is 4 tracks of gentle atmospheres, energetic drumming and rippling melodies that insinuate their way into your consciousness with each listen. The closest analogy I can think of is the cyclical percussion of Jaki Leibezeit jamming with the playful experimentation of Roedelius and “Ruckzuck” era Kraftwerk.

The album opens with the most dynamic of the tracks on show, Loderbauer’s synths soaring over the top of the more central interplay between Riipatti and Von Oswald. Their reggae leanings haven’t left them completely, and in the second of the 4 segments, metallic dub-inflected rhythms play out against echo and ever-so slight key changes that mutate into what sound like gongs and bells. It’s pregnant with expectation, but to their credit the trio don’t fall down the trap of playing it out to a linear climax. Track 3 sees the tempo rise, and they begin to flex their muscles, Von Oswald’s Rhodes punctuating the journey with some rhythms beautifully. One can imagine Carl Craig joining proceedings. The fourth finishes in somewhat abstract style, playing out against a backdrop of noise and slow dub rhythms.

Witnesses to the live incarnation of this trio were left somewhat bemused by their initial output, and it’s easy to see why, but great musicians often need to start afresh, and one can sense that Von Oswald has done this here. It’s interesting to hear this trio flex out into some uncharted sonic territory, although my feelings deep down with “Vertical Ascent” are that it is the start, and nothing more at this stage. There are certainly some fine passages to this album, but like most of his work before, we are left clutching at shards of sound and structure, our minds again left to try and place the rest of the musical collage for our ears. The Von Oswald trio provide a tantalising palette and sensual backdrop for us to do so.


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