Mats Gustafsson and Tony Lugo never met. A mutual record label – the Italian sound-oriented label Superpang (for which Gustafsson recorded the solo album «Countdown», 2020) – and friends connected these innovative improvisers, and music files were sent back and forth between Gustafsson’s headquarters at Discaholic Studios in Nickelsdorf, Austria and Lugo at Tempo House in Baltimore, Maryland during the summer and spring of 2021. Gustafsson’s arsenal of saxes, flute, drums and electronics and Lugo’s drums and electronics were augmented with AI tools and algorithms. Gustaffson says that «Vertical» is «Interactive improvised music. Extended techniques of human and machine. Learning process. Autopoiesis. Illogicity», and calls it «The Flesh JAZZZ». Needless to say, Gustafsson recommended playing it loud.
«Vertical» was mastered by noise meister Lasse Marhaug and offers Peter Brötzmann’s artwork, «Vertical» (1963). The ten short remote improvisations launch the uncompromising approaches of Gustafsson and Lugo, both owe much to the innovative work of Brötzmann and Marhaug, into the futurist outer limits. They load their distinct approaches with dense and urgent frictions and interactions that go in all directions – vertical and horizontal, back and forth, often at the same time, and sometimes even insisting on drowning all in dark and noisy swamps.
There are no rhythmic patterns that one can cling to, nor clear narratives, but a series of stubborn attempts of Gustafsson and Lugo to challenge themselves, intrigue each other and the AI tools, and keep searching for ways to subvert or harness the sudden machine sounds to their own personal vocabularies. Gustafsson’s fast instincts and high-energy, extended breathing techniques still manage to make some sense of the fragmented and chaotic percussive sounds of Lugo and the AI tools, and here he plays the alto sax and the flute, in addition to the tenor, baritone and bass saxophones. «Reciprocal Violence» represents best the sonic universe of «Vertical», constant collisions of broken sax screams and howls, with drum kits that are being trashed and crashed. Only the title track and «Replaceable Silence» come close to the dynamics of a free jazz duet, obviously, spiced with an endless stream of unsettling noises.
Gustafsson was always played ‘out’ kind of music, but this kind of Flesh JAZZZ takes his ‘out’ sensibilities into a wild and ecstatic spin in the most ‘outer’ sonic dimensions. Looking forward to experiencing this duo playing live with all the AI tools and machines.
Lugo expands his sonic approach on his solo album «Synthetic Percussion Works», recorded in January 2022 and released by the Viennese netlabel ETAT which focuses on dissociative, psychoacoustic, computer music. The acoustic percussive sounds are totally enslaved to the AI tools and machines and only rarely you can discern echoes of these instruments within the cryptic, noisy storms. But this is still percussion music, weird and otherworldly as it sounds, made of deconstruction and reconstruction of snare drum and assorted cymbal implements through source analysis, wavelet reconstitution, and other computer sound transformations. The final tracks are real-time recordings of the reconstruction process performed algorithmically. There are even hints of distant, fragmented melody on «Japan10/Depron».
ETAT head label Stefan Juster frames Lugo’s sonic ideas with Noam Chomsky’s assessment that identity has no physical property, therefore all things – including transformative percussive spells of Lugo – become organizational structures that have a perceptual continuity to us. «Abandoning all arborescent ideals of what the identity of percussion should be, Lugo leaves us with a translation of a book in a language we might not be familiar with».
Mats Gustafsson (as, ts, bs, bass s, fl), Tony Lugo (dr, elec)