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cd review: moritz von oswald trio: vertical ascent
21 September, 2009, 12:24 PM
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Reviewed on Saturday, July 25, 2009 by Areti Sakellaris
Published on
Honest Jon’s Recordings
4.5 Stars

The debut from the Moritz Von Oswald Trio, Vertical Ascent, doesn’t play any games with listeners. No funky lasers or Auto-tuned lyrics to hold onto. For longtime fans of electronic, dub, and techno, you’re acclimated to the fundamental structure; however, for those brave newbies, Ascent may seem underwhelming. Or overwhelming for those trying to grasp it. First I thought, Oh, I’ll have to really listen to this album because it doesn’t get in my head. Instead, I will have to get inside of it and explore this musical landscape on my own. Gulp. This album sounds like falling into the abyss.

And that is meant as a massive compliment. I could weave a framework, and as different sounds and emotions caught my ear, I could add to it. It summoned my creativity, and I found a depth to these epic tracks (the first cut is 14 solid minutes of pure ambient electronic) that the cute three-minute ditty hardly captures. Inspiring. There are no unexpected moments of intense flashiness, cacophonous reverb, or lyrics; it is experimental and minimal. However, Ascent is not an intimidating record necessitating a PhD in something fancy to enjoy and appreciate it.

Imagine a derelict warehouse by the docks, the music is lost in time—stark and futuristic—and a highly respected techno pioneer beyond introductions, Moritz von Oswald, orchestrating the synthesizers and samplers. Max Louderbauer is responsible for the analog synthesizers and Vladislav Delay (aka Sasu Ripatti) is on drums and percussion.

This isn’t a record for the impatient; the lethargic tracks take their time to develop, and for the huge space the trio creates, they fill the atmosphere with intimacy and allure, seamlessly progressing from one movement to the next.

Von Oswald said at an interview that he likes to use a limited number of elements and repetition for his music, which certainly does not make this a boring or heartless record. Quite the contrary, Ascent is an electronic symphony thoroughly alive and existing in its own vortex continuum.


Heating Up: RH+ Debuts Stateside
3 February, 2009, 10:12 PM
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The heat is on for the Chilean ensemble RH+ as they release their American debut Quintana Roo today. Veteran performers for over seven years, singers Fernando Lasalvia and Ximena “Nera” Munoz deliver a unique blend of diaphanous vocals over a dynamic mix of driving electronica and ambient tones.

From the get-go, “What About” sets the pace for the album and ushers listeners into a warm, expansive space; Lasalvia and Munoz’s interlaced vocals are a pleasant dream that encapsulates you.

“Perry Frankie Miller Gajardo” is downright spellbinding. Though Lasalvia sings, “I never thought that I was dressed in blue,” the delivery of this introspective number juxtaposes his melancholy with happiness. This juxtaposition is highlighted in the music video [below] in which the protagonist erupts into riotous laughter at its conclusion, belying Lasalvia’s sadness.

Current single “Curb” and the thumping guitar of dance-driven “Rockinsol” propel the album to new heights. Munoz ponders on “Rockinsol,” which is a huge hit in Chile, “What is wrong with your life?” Again, RH+ is asking listeners to reposition themselves and perhaps enter another dimension via Quintana Roo‘s musical odyssey. At this point, the tracks coalesce into a package of songs that belong together; there are no throw-away tracks that seem out of place.

On “El Elela,” Lasalvia sings in Spanish, while Munoz accompanies him in English,  and the song is reminiscent of a drug trip with its lo-fi feel, fuzzy edges, effects popping up, and the hypnotic synthesizer fading out like a damaged record player.

“We’re falling in love,” Munoz calls and Lasalvia responds on “The Right Room.” Lasalvia and Munoz’s vocals are layered with instrumentation and a voiceover together splendidly underscoring their quirky sound. This song is the soundtrack for late-night driving through dream-lit city streets.

Rounding out the album with “Shuggie Ortiz,” Lasalvia slows down and his voice moves from sexy to tough to truly tender when he declares, “You are my everything.” Munoz does not join him until the song is nearly over, and the sudden presence of her voice accents its absence from the rest of the track; this is his testament and she accepts it.

The final track, “The Sing of the Golden Urg” links up the voice effects of “Sambacunta,” and “Hell is Not A Safe Place.” Playing the songs off one another helps to render the album very intimate, and the organic sensations and imagery push conceptual boundaries into another sonic dimension—creating that expansive effect.

This album has much to offer and trying to pin it down is like trying to pick out just one star from the sky; read into the lyrics and pull out political nuances or the religiosity associated with the album’s title or the linguistic interchanges or say it sounds similar to the likes of Broken Social Scene or Air. This album is for those looking for something a little off-the-beaten-path.