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Kurtágonals
Intraga [9:10]
Kurtagamelan [14:05]
Interrogation [10:10]
Lux-abbysum [13:54]
Dronezone [7:28]
Kurtaganja [8:15]
Twin PeaX [4:07]
Necroga [4:06]
Hortagonals
László Hortobágyi (synthesizers, computers)
György Kurtág Jr (synthesizers)
Miklós Lengyelfi (bass, effects)
rec. August 2008, Guo Manor, Budapest
ECM NEW SERIES 2097 (4763260) [71:19]
Experience Classicsonline


It took me a while to work out what is going on here, but it would appear than the music on this disc is the result of a collaborative effort. György Kurtág Jr., son of the great Hungarian composer, has long been developing his own electronic music, and Fellow composer László Hortobágyi, perhaps better known for his performances of traditional ‘world’ music, has integrated Kurtág’s themes into his own arrangements. “This”, say the ‘Hortagonals’ group members, “is a Hortobágyi album about Kurtág,” as well as “an invitation to discover a new sphere of music”.

Although the claim is made for a ‘new sphere of music’, there is in fact very little here which I would consider particularly forward-looking. Those attractive bass ‘whooom’ sounds throughout the album remind me somewhat of that elusive 1985 Vangelis album Invisible Connections, a record which also shares this one’s delight in extended decay and deep, infinitely cavernous resonances. Those of you familiar with the pop duo Yello may also recognise the kind of synthesizer field of sound and little chorale extras about 5 minutes into the Interrogation track. The vast acoustic effects allied with skipping rhythms in Lux-abbysum are also part of the Yello sound palette, particularly on their ‘Pocket Universe’ album. I kept expecting to hear Dieter Meier’s deep voice to appear out of the acoustic gloom: ‘dis is de voice of infinity...’; that or the X-Files theme.

With Hortobágyi’s credentials it is hardly surprising to find some fragments of folk music creeping into the mix of sounds in these tracks. These are not treated in the same way as something like the Deep Forest formation, and are rarely integrated into the music or sampled to fit in any significant way. The atmosphere is enhanced by fragmentary contributions by numerous instrumental and other concrete sounds however, with the exotic colours of bells or Gamelan chimes, calling children and someone having a wash through the dark moods of Intraga, the surrealist juxtapositions of which create some of the most effective moments. There is also some clarinet or taragot near the beginning of Interrogation, what sounds like a kind of dulcimer in Dronzone, and choral or solo voices which appear out of the soundscape, giving certain passages a more human touch. The ticking and heartbeat rhythms of Kutraganja seems to have a fair bit in common with the opening of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, though without the mad Irishman and cash tills.

With all the time I’ve spent in darkened concert halls listening to electronic music, I can’t say that this cuts much mustard in the boundary-stretching new music stakes. I’ve actually quite enjoyed listening to the album however, and admire the high production values and obvious creativity which has gone into its making. One aspect I like is that, while there are tracks named and access points given, the music runs from beginning to end in a single cohesive concept. You can put it on, get on with writing your novel or allow yourself to be transported to other worlds, and not worry about having to skip through annoying numbers. My problem is that it never really materialises into fish or flesh, and never goes far enough beyond well-trodden electronic comfort zones to avoid triggering associations and well-known influences, even be they unconscious. Quasi-disco numbers like Kurtaganja never quite lose their self-consciousness and lift off into something good and heavy, and the more purely abstract electronic tracks never stretch the mind much beyond the materials and means which went into their making. Twin PeaX has a nicely conceived ‘talking’ guitar part, but again, the discussion never goes beyond a rather meek monologue and I was left wanting more development, and more daring and imagination in terms of the sounds presented.

As the website would have it, this is indeed “an intriguing addition to ECM’s growing catalogue of electronica for discerning listeners.” You will be intrigued, but do not expect your horizons to be broadened by much. This is unlikely to prove powerful enough to give you strange dreams or have the neighbours calling in the local exorcist, but if you are looking for some new aural wallpaper to freshen up your Jon Hassel or Harold Budd speaker dressing then this may well do the trick.

Dominy Clements


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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