When Saturday Comes

Slovenian improvising percussionist Jaka Berger is always welcome in this bathysphere, and today’s record Lih Kadim (FMR RECORDS FMRCD645-0822) is no exception. It’s played by a group called the Sunday Sextet, comprising Marko Jenic on violin, Jure Brosic on reeds, Andrej Bostjancic-Ruda on electric guitar, Jost Drasler on double bass, and Vid Drasler on drums. Berger himself does live sampling and works his modular synth on the three pieces here.

The “Sunday” thing refers to a regular free music event in Slovenia called Sunday Noise, which recently came to an end – very sadly, since it had been regaling the open-hearted citizens at Klub Metulj since 2011. It wasn’t just free improvisation, either; it may have included other genres of music, political actions, and other subcultural doings to enrich the brain. These six decided to throw their dice together on the same corner of the wrestling mat, and today’s album – recorded in 2021, just as the Sunday Noise thing was on the verge of vanishing – is the result. Berger has passed on some details of the background of these players, but suffice to say they all come at it from a free-jazz / free-improv dimension, have played in numerous other bands and combos and ensembles, and we can single out Bostjancic-Ruda as quite the veteran – one of the founders of the Klub he, and the first to organise concerts 25 years ago, plus he plays in rock bands and fusion bands, and the ethnic music group Brencl Banda.

What impresses most about this music is how well Sunday Sextet have negotiated the “polyphony” thing – I mean getting all their instruments to sound together, without creating a hopeless muddle or getting in each other’s way. Some may hear a sprawl, but I claim they succeed in weaving very open spaces which give all the players enough space to contribute, sometimes by simply making short and compressed statements with chosen instrument before moving on to another part of the imaginary room (in my fantasy vision, it’s the size of an aircraft hanger inside a football stadium, which shows how successful they’ve been). This refreshing approach to playing may be a very useful update on that old musical chestnut, the idea of “taking a solo” – something which may have come to us from jazz culture or rock culture, but which is almost certainly driven by musical ego. Well, that and the lust for playing too loud and for showing off, other unwelcome human traits which mar many a good musical session. By contrast, the musicians in Sunday Sextet have evidently evolved a mutual respect for each other, which fosters this extremely productive and collaborative environment.

Which brings me to my second observation, their ability to keep going, to sustain this musical mode once started. The second track here, simply titled ‘Friday’, is 35:36 mins of non-stop playing, replete with rises and falls, swelling and deflation, coming together and moving apart…all the wonderful dynamics one could hope for from a group playing situation. It also allows us to observe the general shape of their work – and that’s an odd word, as there is something quite shapeless about this mass of sound, with very little in the way of repeated themes, producing a gaseous billow which may be mistaken for aimless meandering by any given non-initiate. But in some mysterious manner our six acolytes manage to bind themselves around a central core of intent and meaning, and it’s quite wiry and muscular – unless I’m mistaken and it’s actually a column of marble. Some of these rather porous qualities might even have passed into the cover artwork by BRGS, with it sinuous flowing lines seeking out the nearest source of juice like hungry organisms poking about under the microscope. As far as we know ‘Friday’ was not edited or spliced, and can be taken as a document of what these engaged freesters can deliver when they’re let out of the jam-jar.

Let’s hope they can continue their activities…as Berger notes with a touch of sadness, Sunday Noise has “stopped roaring” now and all the players are “waiting for reunions in the future form of another sonic phoenix.” From 18 January 2023.

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