Boomkat Product Review:
Moritz von Oswald's latest solo album is his most startling, time-bending material since the Basic Channel days, a collaboration with a 16-voice choir that refracts techno and choral music into dizzying psychedelic traces, exploiting mind-altering xenharmonic synth tones, Ligeti-like operatic phrases and abyssal kicks with a veteran's cunning. We've been knocked sideways by this one - trans-dimensional afters music at its absolute best.
We realise that there's been a lot of electronic music released recently saddled with these buzzwords. Choirs, unusual tunings, deconstructions of early music - elements almost mandatory for artists eyeing the lucrative Euro festival circuit. But to our mind that's what makes von Oswald's latest all the more astonishing. He's stepped in with an album that's so definitive, it reminds us just how foundational and game-changing his early material was, and how less can so often amount to more. Opening track 'Silencio' is a dazzling proof of concept that winds lilting, oddly-tuned synth tones around the barest percussion. There are no vocals on this one, instead the traces of early Detroit techno hang heavy around its frayed edges.
Working like a scientist with the stereo field, von Oswald introduces familiar elements into the mix in unexpected places. Wormy,cascading synth tones are met by driving whirrs, and the kickdrum sounds so submerged that it's almost an illusion. When he does introduce noisier sounds, they color the track like drybrushed highlights, and he saves the best until the final moments, energising the mood with monumental Millsian stabs that reference the past without retreading churned mud. It sets us up for the album's biggest tonal shift, when Oswald presents the choir on 'Luminoso'. He's worked extensively with ensembles in the last few years, his own - the constantly-shifting Moritz von Oswald Trio - the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester and Kyrgyz ensemble Ordo Sakhna, and the experience has furnished him with the ability to treat the choir with just the right amount of reverence and distance. Here, the Berlin singers' voices swirl into ghosted tones, nestling beneath a layer of mixing desk noise that feels like von Oswald's little wink to the camera, an acknowledgement of past glories.
Moritz also provides a more abstracted rework of the track (along with three other versions of the choral compositions) that deepens the narrative. Losing the vocals completely, this take references the original's framework while adding impalpable, off-grid beats and cottony, rumbling textures that pirouette between the speakers. The synths and voices meet somewhere in the middle on 'Infinito', and von Oswald's remix shuttles them further into outer space, fogging them into spectral impressions and building a lithe rhythm over the top that hiccups and stutters with poise and momentum. 'Colpo' is even more impressive, offsetting the suggestive chorals with mechanical oscillations and thunderous sub bass tones. Like the earliest Detroit experiments, it's material that positions electronic music as a way to speculate about the past's relationship with the future. Von Oswald has formulated a minimalist masterpiece that interrogates not just technology, but the conceptual technologies of cultural invention. It's a highly rewarding, engrossing listen, certain to become a classic for the most adventurous after-hours listeners.