Brgs is Jaka Berger, a musician and artist based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He’s part of the Virtaranta Okuda Berger free improvisation trio, Ludovik Material, a gothy, post-punk inspired rock band, the D.Bees noise-metal duo and the mysterious Partija, whose The Game is a ‘composition for string table, card deck, dices and tools.’ His solo material, usually released as Brgs, hits an intriguing sweet spot between free improvisation and electroacoustic composition, one in which acoustic sounds are morphed into unrecognizable, extraterrestrial shapes. Occasionally that processing expands into a kind of cannibalistic plundering, as on his recent Intervention Tape, in which Berger grabs samples of Virtaranta Okuda Berger out-takes, then cuts and splices them into hectic, mutoid reincarnations.
Last month’s Auditory Contemplation was another step into new territory, using a VTOL DIY scanner as one of its sound sources. The scanner is an item of hand-built electronics that can scan rough-textured surfaces and turn the data into sounds. It looks cute and, on the evidence of this instruction video, can be used to render up a wide variety of sonic products. Indeed, the wooly crackles, glassy burbles, mournful pings and sine-like whines produced by the scanner at different times during Auditory Contemplation add texture and depth to the elegant electronic soundscapes.
But, for me at least, January’s Fragments of The Present is one of the most compelling Brgs outings of these past few months. A series of real-time improvisations with prepared snare, string boxes, feedback speakers and various vibrating/rotating objects, it highlights the distinctive uncanniness of Berger’s method as well as the satisfying, composition-like structures it produces. The mention of string boxes may remind Wandelweiser-inclined listeners of Stefan Thut’s work, although Berger takes a very different approach to his objects than Thut’s up-close, unvarnished focus. Here, the box is just another ingredient in Berger’s sonic stew, his objects retaining enough of their essential characteristics to be identifiable, just about, but achieving significance from being a constituent part of a greater whole.
Fragments of The Present consists of four tracks of gritty slides, metallic plinks and earthy twangs, erupting as clanking sequences of related sounds and dense, knotty clumps. On Winds, copious backwards reverb accentuates the sinister quirkiness of Berger’s apparitions, their encrusted thickness providing an unexpected physicality. Different in both approach and outcome to the traditional model of free improv, Berger’s method unshackles the causal links of listening and response – despite being created without any post-hoc editing or processing – instead enacting intuitive sound sculpting that edges towards the self-determination of generative music. The train-track rattles and warming bass throbs of Waters, for example, seem to take on a life of their own as the piece progresses, as if Berger has abnegated any responsibility for their creation. By the time the papery scratch of Greens kicks in, the impression of an autonomous cybernetic organism is complete, its dissonant bloops splatting across a mournful sine moan like data microbes replicating in some virtual breeding pen. Dischordant, engrossing stuff.