Moritz Von Oswald Trio - "Structure 4" (Horizontal Structures)
The Moritz Von Oswald Trio’s first album, Vertical Ascent, sounded like a good, if chancy, idea: Translate the paradoxically austere aural sensuality of Basic Channel techno to old-school instruments played in real time. It’s to the credit of Moritz Von Oswald (Rhythm & Sound, Maurizio), Sasu Ripatti (Vadislav Delay, Uusitalo, Luomo), and Max Loderbauer’s (NSI, Sun Electric) coolly combustible polyrhythmic chemistry that it generally sounded like a pretty good record, too. But its follow-up, Live In New York, raised the question of whether the project was a dead end; it had little to add to its predecessor but the noise of a well-liquored audience.
Horizontal Structures proves that this music has legs. You don’t really need to know who is in this band, or what else they’ve done, to appreciate what they do. You just have to like your hefty sounds to come wrapped in plush space.
But before we go on, a point of fact; at least for the time being the Trio is not a trio. Paul St. Hilaire (a.k.a. Tikiman) has joined on guitar, as has Marc Muellbauer (Julia Hülsmann Trio) on double bass. On “Structure 1,” the addition of wah-wah grit and woody resonance makes the music more expansive. Notes don’t just ping across the stereo spectrum; they seem to head beyond its bounds, or reach well in advance of the pulsing grooves and their attendant orbiting atmospheres, like some sonic reconnaissance team. The new guys lock into a drum machine groove to form the music’s stout center on “Structure 2,” and this time it’s Oswald and Loderbauer who do the exploring. Starry keyboards burst outward, and filtered bass-bursts seep from the sound holes of Muellbauer’s instrument and ooze into the floor, where you can feel it traveling outwards in all directions. Ripatti’s echo-laden percussive commentary brings focus to the insistent drive of “Structure 4.”
But focusing on individual only takes you so far. The Trio understands the fundamental restraint that distinguishes great groove bands, and they keep their contributions sparse enough that there is oodles of room for individual sounds to take an FX-greased ride around the sonic perimeter. Space, it seems, is now their place.