Sometimes it takes a couple listens for an album to really fall into place, but then it finally does and you wonder just what connections were missing previously. Such is the case for me with Vertical Ascent, which came out several months ago but has completely locked itself into my regular rotation lately.
An electronic super-group of sorts, the trio is comprised of Moritz von Oswald (Basic Channel, Rhythm & Sound), Max Loderbauer (Sun Electric, NSI), and Vladislav Delay. The end result is a four-section epic of an album that flows like a continuous whole, with tracks that average out to about 11 minutes apiece and contain touches of minimal techno, minimal dub, old-school techno, and even a hit of kraut rock.
Ultimately, the album is all about the rhythm, as multiple layers of percussion are usually clattering about as some sparse melodies provide some basic atmosphere for the repetitive, but morphing beats. In fact, the tracks themselves aren’t given descriptive names, instead titled “Pattern 1” through “Pattern 4.” In some ways, it reminds one of the rather self-explanatory way that Steve Reich would title his longer compositions, and it certainly fits here. As mentioned above, there are only minor delineations between the tracks themselves, with more of a feeling that the release itself is one giant, pulsing whole.
“Pattern 1” kicks things off with some metallic percussive rattles that get almost overtaken by some harsh sheets of sound and then some sparkling synths, but much of the haze melts off by about halfway through and the beat starts cracking even harder, with some gurgling electronic bass and swarming drones. That in turn melts into “Pattern 2,” where a more sparse, dubby aesthetic rules, as individual drum hits clatter off into the distance as bells and other delayed percussive hits fall in around the sides and give the track the eeriest feel on the album.
If I had to pick a favorite cut, it would probably be “Pattern 3,” as layers of metal drums pan like crazy in the stereo space while woozy organ chords and pitch-bent chimes provide some basic touch-points along the way.
“Pattern 3” – Moritz Von Oswald Trio
As mentioned in the very first paragraph, this is the sort of release that may not click on first listen, but it certainly burrows into your brain after a couple listens. It’s seriously minimal, but as the track titles suggest, patterns certainly emerge as it unspools. It doesn’t really sound particularly like anything that any one of the trio would do on their own (although some of the percussive sections do have Delay’s fingerprints on them), but it certainly sucks you into its android pulsations.