The safest bet in electronic music is the Hard Wax record shop in Berlin. Rooted in the sound and approach of the Detroit movement, the labels Basic Channel, Rhythm & Sound, and Chain Reaction grew out of the store. These labels produced the most captivating and compelling minimalist excurions on vinyl. Moritz von Oswald and Mark Ernestus were the heart of those labels, and their work under Basic Channel was joined by Monolake, Vladislav Delay, Fluxion, Vainqueur, Substance, Hallucinator, Porter Ricks (Thomas Köner and Andy Mellwig), and many others.
The Moritz von Oswald Trio strips away the laptops and turn tables for physical instruments. Their atmospheric sound has as much to do with AMM or Miles Davis or the Headhunters as Ritchie Hawtin or Jim O’Rourke. Horizontal Structures is the third release from the Trio, following Vertical Ascent and the LPR performance captured on Live in New York. The trio consists of Oswald, Sasu Ripatti (Vladislav Delay, Luomo) and Max Loderbauer (Sun Electric, Redux Orchestra) playing live instruments over an electronic backdrop. This time out, Paul “Tikiman” St. Hilaire and Marc Muellbauer round out the lineup.
This is a fantastic recording that continues the subtle aesthetic of their previous albums. Each of the five pieces averages 15 minutes of improvisation that showcases their ability to fold rhythms and sound textures through long stretches of repetition and transformation. They do this without soloing. Each instrument becomes percussive. Ego is submerged into the beat. In fact, writing about this recording or explaining why I find it so endearing has become a tremendous challenge.
There’s no need to do a play-by-play on any of the songs. They speak for themselves, but surely there will be a lot of folks that just don’t “get” this. These guys would probably be the worst wedding band of all time, but that’s not the point. Repetition, digital effects and a more with less approach dominate this release. I hope these guys find the time to dish out five more records in this vein. More than anything, this is the music of the margin. Not electronic. Not jazz. A touch fractal; a touch minimal.