Minimal krauty goodness : Moritz Von Oswald strikes again with Vertical ascent
I first heard this album last august in Paris whilst shopping @t Fnac. They had a complete rack of vinyl of german krautrock such Neu! and Conrad Schnitzler. As much as I liked it, I decided to pass on it, waiting to read more review. Afterwards, I picked this record but still wasn’t conviced. Sometimes it takes a couple listens for an album to really fall into place, but then it finally does and you wonder just what connections were missing previously. Such is the case for me with Vertical Ascent, which came out several months ago but has completely locked itself into my regular rotation lately. Last week I talked about Von Oswald’s forray into classical music, well this time it’s in avant garde-fusion jazz that his last endeavors has blown me away. Vertical ascent is his jazz trio where Von Oswald aligns with Max Loderbauer (Sun Electric, nsi.) and Sasu Ripatti (Vladislav Delay, Luomo). A gorgeous, succinct set that can be slotted between Weather Report’s 1971 and some Krautock experiment à la Ashra-Temple. The end result is a four-section epic of an album that flows like a continuous whole, with tracks that average out to about 11 minutes apiece and contain touches of minimal music, ambient, space rock and of course, jazz-fusion that sounds very much like Bitches brew circa 2009. It’s reminescent of the electric period of Miles Davis kinda like Miles meets Can’s avant-garde german music of the 70’s. Pattern 1 kicks things off with some metallic percussive rattles that get almost overtaken by some harsh sheets of sound and then some sparkling synths, but much of the haze melts off by about halfway through and the beat starts cracking even harder, with some gurgling electronic bass and swarming drones. That in turn melts into “Pattern 2,” where a more sparse, dubby aesthetic rules, as individual drum hits clatter off into the distance as bells and other delayed percussive hits fall in around the sides and give the track the eeriest feel on the album. As mentioned in the very first paragraph, this is the sort of release that may not click on first listen, but it certainly burrows into your brain after a couple listens.
The culmination of several years of live shows, Vertical Ascent is an utterly compelling and complex release, seamlessly fusing organic free-flow improvisation with the pristine electronic palette you expect from Von Oswald. The four Patterns here follow a generally dub-like structure, where a relentless patter of midtempo percussion provides the propulsive counterpoint to heady, diaphonous atmospherics. The languid synth waves makes for workday ambiance, the mesmerizing fluid textures makes for a repeat-listening delight though rooted in some of the same Euro prog-rock innovations of the 1970s and 1980s. Playing synth, Rhodes piano and tuned metal sculptures, as well as computers and effects, Oswald and his partners have developed a hybrid sound that hurtles like traffic on the autobahn. Damn Germans ! They’ve done it again.
Moritz Von Oswald trio : Pattern 1 [Vertical ascent : Honest Jon’s records : 2009]