Moritz Von Oswald Trio:
It would be interesting to see how Horizontal Structures by the Moritz Von Oswald Trio would be received if the identities of its creators weren't known. The participation of Von Oswald (known for his solo work as Maurizio and for his involvement in Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound with Mark Ernestus) and Sasu Ripatti (aka Vladislav Delay, Luomo) automatically lends the group and recording a degree of credibility, even before a note's heard. For Horizontal Structures, the group's follow-up to 2009's Vertical Ascent and 2010's Live In New York, the trio has grown into a quintet with the addition of double bassist Marc Muellbauer and guitarist Paul St. Hilaire (aka Tikiman and Rhythm & Sound associate), even if the name remains the Moritz Von Oswald Trio.
The presence of Muellbauer makes an immediate difference in the trio's sound, as the repeating motif anchoring “Horizontal Structure 1” indicates, and so too does St. Hilaire, whose bluesy guitar musing helps establish the piece's languorous mood. Ripatti's subtle percussive flourishes likewise contribute to its development before an urgent pulsation enters that eventually broadens out with the addition of burbling textures and congas. Ultimately it registers as a modestly interesting jam that resembles Miles Davis's mid-‘70s band warming up at rehearsal while waiting for the man himself to arrive. Muellbauer also gives “Horizontal Structure 2” a drive and funkiness it wouldn't otherwise have (his aggressive attack at the thirteen-minute mark stands out as one of the track's more memorable moments), and in its insistently pulsating groove the piece turns up the intensity a notch compared to the opener. “Horizontal Structure 3” succeeds more for the simple reason that it builds itself up from a dub-funk base that's also more electronic in character than the opening pair; in other words, the track plays to the 'trio' members' strengths, even if it too ultimately adds up to be a meandering jam of little import. The group's focus on mood and texture comes forth all the more clearly in the fourth piece, the longest of the four at just over twenty minutes and one again elevated by the propulsive bottom-end provided by Muellbauer and Ripatti. The eventual appearance of what sounds like organ playing (albeit faintly heard) and the hypnotic African vibe of the groove gives the piece a Sun Ra-like character that's not unappealing.
But while those who've heretofore focused their appetite exclusively on electronic music might find enough worth getting excited about, those with jazz listening backgrounds might be more inclined to dismiss the album's material as so much lukewarm noodling (it's telling that the group's music is wholly improvised with nothing written in advance). Such listeners would also bemoan the group's lack of a strong lead voice, as there's no front-line soloist for the others to orient themselves around, unless one regards the atmospheric textures cooked up by Von Oswald and Max Loderbauer as a lead voice.