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Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Jessica Pavone, Lukas Koenig & Matt Mottel – Spam Likely (577 Records, 2022)

By Matty Bannond

Free and improvised music has a unique power to shapeshift and change its spots. The album Spam Likely shows that this magic can even happen in passages that seem securely nailed to the ground. It features a pair of tracks, each about twenty minutes long, that are at opposite ends of the atmospheric spectrum. But they share an elusive and constantly mutating quality.

The record brings together Jessica Pavone on viola and electronics, Lukas Koenig on drums and Matt Mottel on keytar and 3-string guitar. They conspire to deliver a two-part listening experience that feels both contrasting and consistent.

“Binge Listen” is the first track. It’s characterized by a pumpy electronic bassline and clicky percussion throughout. Pavone’s viola darts in and out of focus. The group maintains a high level of adrenaline for almost the entire twenty-three minutes, often presenting groovy passages that set heads bobbing and toes tapping. It’s a track that makes a physical impact. While the bassline sticks around and the intensity remains turbo-charged, there are constant shifts in texture and complexion.

The album’s title track follows this rock-solid landscape with a more austere sonic setting. Viola and keytar resist gravity side-by-side, like a hammer and feather dropped on the moon. Microcurrents and microorganisms swell beneath a placid ocean surface. It’s a stark contrast to the howling climate of the first track, producing a psychological rather physical effect. But it achieves the same stealthy, slippery metamorphosis as each wave of sound submits to the next.

Spam Likely unites three popular collaborators on the experimental music scene. Their individual voices and visions mingle to form a pair of musical adventures that weave along divergent narrative paths, but unfold similar tales of imperceptible transformation. That is the magic of free and improvised music. And it is powerful in this album.

The album is available via streaming, digital download and on CD here.