Joke Lanz & Mat Pogo - Untitled [Nihilist - 2022]
Joke Lanz & Mat Pogo's Untitled cassette on Nihilist Recordings collects two different live performances on sides A and B, respectively. A freeform interplay between turntables, sampled elements and vocals, this is a collision of the worlds of free improvisation and electronic music, with a tongue in cheek absurdist bent that is hilarious at times. Both members utilize electronics, but Joke Lanz is the primary turntablist, with Mat Pogo handling the vocals.
Rather than attempting rhythmic or melodic structuring, this album is a spastic, stuttering, hiccuping tantrum with a hyperactive, edgy quality almost as if the musicians had ingested uppers. The most abstract tonal qualities of the instruments are explored, as Lanz and Pogo frantically strive to inject as many sudden stabs and percussive scat vocalizations as humanly possible. The consistently rapid pace of the loud, brazen nonsense takes on its own kind of flow after a while, though remaining stubbornly outside of meter.
When Pogo does speak audible words, they are things like "taste it with your mouth, and enjoy it" or "I don't know what I'm singing about" and other such meta-babble. In one instance, he stumbles upon a line that really did make me think as well as laugh, "Recorded music is trapped in a format, in a box, like a chicken." About 2/3 of his performance contains no words, creating animalistic, guttering sounds in a way that should please fans of Mike Patton's more avant-garde music, particularly his performances in Fantômas and John Zorn's "Moonchild" ensemble.
The turntablism is very creative, sampling a large variety of sounds, from throat singing and dialogue samples, to loops cut from big-band jazz LPs and warehouse techno 12"s. The irreverantly glitched out use of a thudding techno kick in the latter half of side A made me laugh out loud, and there was a curious section following where overtone rich throat singing was pitch manipulated and electronically harmonized into a new chord, which Pogo begins singing along with.
Whenever the sound starts to lose its luster, Lanz can pull another record out of the crate and thus begin a new phase of the jam. Generally, there is never a dull moment in their performances, the two members of the duo constantly amplifying each other's energy, aligned in spirit, though not in literal rhythmic sync. It was a wise decision, I think, to include two different performances on the album, as it is allows the energy to remain high for the duration of each.
This album is essentially free jazz done with atypical instrumentation, and due to the brazenly dissonant and unstructured performance, may still appeal most of all to people already accustomed to listening to that style. However, the element of humor and absurdity elevates it to a more listenable level than your average free jazz, which can be ambiguous in meaning. Lanz and Pogo's restless penchant for constant change and forays into new directions also aids in this. This is absolutely one of the best improvisational albums I've heard in ages. Drop by here to buy directJosh Landry