A group comprising Moritz Von Oswald, Sasu Ripatti and Max Loderbauer could easily have gone to the bank by calling themselves the Barons of Ambient Techno and making an amalgam of Basic Channel, Vladislav Delay and Sun Electric. Instead, as the Moritz Von Oswald Trio, they have made three records in as many years on which they applied their techno-honed musicality to a real-time improvisational setting, involving good old-fashioned instruments like synth and double bass as well as computers and drum machines.
While the trio hasn’t entirely abandoned this outward-bound, poly-generic approach on Fetch, it definitely sounds like Von Oswald looked himself in the mirror before walking into the studio and said, “I Gotta Be Me.” Because no matter what else goes on, each of its four tracks (one per LP side, although all four fit nicely onto one CD) rides a beat whose unwavering momentum and echo-haloed bass is straight out of his old playbook. In fact, Fetch is structured like a retreat from the jazz realm into the land of the narcotic pulse.
The first track “Jam” is fronted by guest Sebastian Studnitzky’s lyric trumpet, which hovers over the groove much like Miles Davis’s did on In A Silent Way. But the way the handclap-festooned groove forges ahead owes nothing whatsoever to jazz, and the rest of the album hews to the course it prescribes. The live percussion and synth smears on “Dark” sounds like they’re chipping away at the top of a moving edifice of big bass and more handclaps, trying to break their way into an impregnable fortress of rhythm.
Things come home on “Club.” Once more, the hand-generated sounds seem to be trying to find their way into a classically remorseless Basic Channel groove that has room for them, but cares not whether they gain entry. And despite a title that hints at African influences and the tapping metallic percussion and short-wave sounds that criss-cross its empty spaces, the dominant element on closer “Yangissa” is an echo that turns sounds into fractal patterns. Last year, the Moritz Von Oswald Trio sounded like they were headed for space. This year, I’d say the mothership has come back home.