Got a couple of nifteroos from Jaka Berger in Slovenia. We’ve had a lot of time for this one-man powerhouse of improv and percussion ever since we first heard his BRGS solo percussion item and welcome his innovative ideas, which are evidently based on practical physical realities about playing instruments rather than some wispy conceptual notions.
Today he’s one half of Shoe & Shoelace with Jure Borsic, and together the duo have blammed out seven sizzling cuts for release on Life In A Shoebox (BRGSTIME). When I played this record on the air, it attracted a spam comment from a foot fetishist, who made plain their interest in seeing and purchasing photographs of feet, perhaps in or out of shoeboxes, in order to satisfy their curious lusts. Such a person would be well advised to stay away from this record, as it’s much closer to the juice and fire of life than they would wish; isn’t fetishism just a form of control, a vain attempt to freeze the very movements and action of life itself? Berger and Borsic, playing drums, modular synth, live sampling and prepared instruments along with woodwinds (sax and clarinet) instead do their best to investigate and celebrate the mysteries of life, at times delving freely into internal organs, or pulling on sinews and bone to find out what motivates us and drives us all through the human comedy. Plenty of aggressive, free-form growling and non-specific noise not too far apart from that strain of improv which is well-represented on the Public Eyesore and Eh? labels in California. What our two Slovenian heroes are aiming at is “the coexistence of organic and electronic sounds”, and to this aim they blend their respective improvisation techniques with a shared interest in free jazz, ambient music, and punk rock.
The duo has its roots in Bootleg Unit, a trio which also included the French electronics genius Colin Petit, who did much to enhance their sound by using his tape machines and effects, throwing wild tape loops and transformed sounds into the fray. Finding much to enjoy in these Feb 2021 sessions recorded at Club Metulj…I like the genuinely exploratory work that’s going on here, both players putting in much effort as they work towards new and freer modes of expression, and not simply deliver a pre-digested result based on their techniques. At times they seem to be asking deep questions about the human condition, so melancholic and profound is the mood they create, yet there’s also a humourous dimension to it, as reflected in the playful band name and track titles such as ‘Tie Your Damn Laces’, ‘Blessed Blister’, and even ‘Feetishist’ – which my spam messager above would probably have enjoyed at some level. Splurgy cover art is by Matej Stupica.
Berger and Borsic also appear on Svet (BRGSTIME) by Niemoy, where they are joined by guitarist Tilen Kravos to become a trio. Kravos is a young firebrand who started shredding his “axe” in high school until he signed up at the Zlatko Kaucic Combo School where he discovered the world of free improv. Seems there’s no holding him back now – free music seems to have galvanised his sprightly bones – and he plays in Eating Sports, Tivulen, Kombo C, Grunt and Duo Vadis, as well as this group. For this Niemoy project, Jaka Berger isn’t playing percussion in the normal way, rather using his modular synth to spit out prepared drum patterns, which he transforms in real time…he calls it a form of “drum painting”…as above, the group has an agenda of sorts, this time trying to call into question some of the precepts of free improv, by dragging its history and baggage through the filters of modern electronic music. Not only the granular synthesis of Berger with his evil black boxes contributes to this plan, as as the spiky guitar lines and high volume ampage of Kravos are doing much to enliven the situation, creating a truly “hot” box right there in the studio. Broadly, they’re trying to get to a much “freer” place, and you can hear them sweating to achieve this with every second of their labour-intensive music.
Vital and pulsating…at times their wild energy threatens to result in a chaotic assault of mismatched sounds, but it’s nowhere near as forced or contrived as Boredoms records of the 1990s used to be, and indeed we might have here a Slovenian update on the things John Zorn was shooting for with his Naked City projects (minus the knowing references to Hollywood soundtracks and easy listening music). I seem to be saying this is very natural music, and indeed it is – no human being should find themselves alienated by this joyous Slovenian racket. The cover art (by BRGS, i.e. Berger himself) shows a buttoned-down TV presenter trying to make himself understood on a very old-fashioned telly set, as he leans out of the picture to make his way past a lace doily hanging over his face. Feels very 1979 post-punk, a suitable image for any UK agit-prop single from that period…
Both the above from 20 June 2022, and many thanks to Jaka for sending these in a nice collage envelope.