AMN Reviews: Jessica Pavone, Lukas Koenig, and Matt Mottel – Spam Likely (2022; 577 Records)

Titled after an all too common and annoying message that appears on our phones these days, Spam Likely is the debut from Jessica Pavone (viola, electronics), Lukas Koenig (drums) and Matt Mottel (keytar, 3-string guitar). This trio had put on their first live performance in 2019 and probably had this effort delayed from what has ensued since. Nonetheless, the album is more than worth the wait given its rather singular take on free and structured improvisation.

The two long tracks of Spam Likely – around 20 minutes each – are constructed from short repeating themes and motifs that constantly evolve and change. In addition to each musician providing snippets of solos, they all contribute to off-kilter and oddly-timed rhythmic underpinnings that give the album a trance-like feel. These are repetitive in a similar fashion as In C, yet not quite as formal. Spam Likely presents idea after idea without giving any one the time to wear out its welcome, frequently employing open-ended techniques to this end.

Koenig’s percussion is a clattering, rattling mass, setting the cadence with a heavy emphasis on cymbals. Mottel lays down guitar riffs as well as thick chords from the keytar, breaking into the aforementioned short solos from time to time. Pavone is also comfortable in both lead and backing roles, contributing to the rhythms as well as jumping out with scratchy viola improvisations. And for those of you familiar with Pavone’s solo and group lead efforts…clear your mind because her work here is quite different.

Indeed, the word “unique” is perhaps overused when describing creative music, but it certainly fits in this case. Spam Likely stands out among thousands of albums in that overarching category with a fresh sound and approach. The album can be used as busy and energetic background music or for purposes of deeper listening. There is plenty to deconstruct here, but one does not need to do so in order to enjoy this offering.

Spam Likely will be out on September 16 from 577 Records, and comes highly recommended.

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