[27 June 2011]
Moritz Von Oswald’s Basic Channel projects were all about establishing borders, running fences around austere prisms of sound so as to not taint them with the glut of overindulgence. His project with Vladislav Delay/Luomo’s Sasu Ripatti and NSI/Sun Electric’s Max Lodbauer as the Moritz Von Oswald Trio seems to wander through a hinterland looking for those borders, despite giving all his tracks restrictive names like “Patterrn”, on the previous release Vertical Ascent, and “Structure”, on Horizontal Structure. The group has a jazzy tilt, exploring electro-acoustic space in a structured and controlled environment. As on Vertical Ascent, Horizontal Structures’s four tracks each function like single, unmarked sides of a Double LP, seemingly roaming, but actually unilaterally navigating—usually employing rhythm as a compass—towards each next successive phase. Throughout the album, these phases touch upon Krautrock, ambient, techno, post-punk, dub, psychedelic, deep house, free jazz, and other sonically adventurous movements. It’s a wholly fluid affair, not anything like the fragmentary patches of Flying Lotus’s Cosmogramma, for instance.
Rhythms and grooves are sustained, but melodies rarely are here. The so-called “Trio” on Horizontal Structures has actually been expanded to a quintet with Marc Muellbauer filling out on Double Bass and Paul St. Hilaire, whose sweet croon has fronted many a Von Oswald track, showcasing some pretty adept guitar playing. As St. Hilaire’s guitar is often the most melodic thing in the immediate vicinity, the newcomer practically steals the show in the bulk of “Structure 1”, despite the subdued nature of his playing.
This is not a showboating affair, however, it’s an ensemble effort, even with Von Oswald’s name at the center of it. When the group struggles to find footing, the players at least stay together while finding their improvisational exit strategy. Horizontal Structures is an album that is meant to be listened to front to back, which is the only way you could do it really. When it’s in danger of losing you, it pulls you back and makes you want to start the track over to find out how you got there.