Review: Joke Lanz – Zungsang (Vice de Forme, Oct 10)

Though the pleasant major-key piano and organ fragments that begin and form the basis for “Zungsang Sankt Jokem II” might lull unsuspecting listeners into false senses of security, Joke Lanz’s newest solo tape Zungsang is not for the faint of heart (or even for the, uh, normal of heart). Though the Berlin sound artist has more recently tended toward gestural, instantaneous improvised music through collaborations with Dieb13, Ute Wassermann, Jonas Kocher, and others, many of his earliest recordings are some formulation of a partnership with the inimitable, infamous Rudolf, a creative connection that is fully salient in this termite-ridden shoebox of volatile brut collages (indeed, the entirety of side A is dedicated to Adolf Wölfli, the Swiss artist who is often identified as the originating example of “outsider art” or “art brut”). As already mentioned, sprightly loop pulses drive the opening track like a skeletal merry-go-round while torrents of brash incoherence—unhinged screams, guttural gurgling, blasts of noise—begin to spurt through the seams, while “Tschimberasso Südwand” is an unsettling stagger through a minimalist haunted house of ghostly trumpet shreds and displaced laughter. Lanz’s idiosyncratic, pseudo-rhythmic approach works well for the shorter tracks, but it’s arguably even more of an asset on the two six-plus minute tracks on the B side; “Dirty Looks” and its distorted electronic throb are almost punkish, and “Voices in My Head” is a hallucinatory romp through dark, surreal effervescence. Solo albums by experienced improvising turntablists do tend to be excellent (see Martin Tétreault, eRikm, Maria Chavez), so perhaps Lanz’s achievement in Zungsang shouldn’t be surprising… yet its appeal is defiantly surprising, novel, unexpected, whether your head is as empty as mine or not.