The culmination of several years of live shows, Vertical Ascent is an utterly compelling and complex release, seamlessly fusing organic free-flow improvisation with the pristine electronic palette you expect from von Oswald. The four "Patterns" here follow a generally dub-like structure, where a relentless patter of midtempo percussion provides the propulsive counterpoint to heady, diaphonous atmospherics. The languid churn makes for workday ambiance, the mesmerizing fluid textures make for a repeat-listening delight.
Since the focus is on exploring a restrained set of sonic possibilities, it's perhaps best to view the four tracks here as a group of variants rather than discrete compositions. The jazzy live-band vibe is most noticeable in Pattern 1, where Ripatti's nimble ride/hi-hat work and an oddly dry clap measure a clipped, breezy pace. It's the most dynamic and immediately gripping of the four tracks, a gently twisting river of sound, burbling and bubbling, heavy on stereo pan and undulating texture. It sounds something like stoned cyborgs covering Miles Davis' late-night fusion classic "In a Silent Way."
Pattern 2 is the most atmospheric, its slow-mo heartbeat and spare, resonant clamor suggesting passage through some dank and shadowy interstice: an anthem for the urban spelunker. Then a flood of light at tunnel's end: Ripatti returns with more uptempo percolation, this time with more of a Latin flavor, and a vaguely Balearic scent wafts across the groove, as if we've vertically ascended from subway tunnel to sand dune. Like Pattern 1, 3 locks into a hypnotic combination of light, flittering rhythms and subtle sonic accents with spare, contemplative Rhodes chords, very ready for Mai Tais and flip flops.
Pattern 4 adopts a heavy bricklayer beat complete with reverb-drenched snare slap, a steam-building mid-tempo rocker that most overtly shows off von Oswald's deep mastery and love of the dub. A cluster of softly filtered fog horns melts into view, then suddenly, instead of the kind of near-infinite fade-out you might expect from such a deeply drifting record, there's a sharp synth burst and silence. It's a pleasantly rude interruption that makes you want to flip the wax and immerse yourself all over again.