Although many fall into the trap of equating electronic music with clubs and dancefloors, things are a tad more complex. Electronic music has always been inherently experimental and prone to pushing boundaries in the very conception of sound itself, before even jumping into “proper” music. One of the artists who has been keeping the legacy of working on the brink between sound art and electronic experimental music alive is the Hungarian Gábor Lázár. With acclaimed appearances on prestigious labels which capture this crossover spirit – Presto!?, Shelter Press, The Death of Rave – he now lands on Planet Mu, a match made in heaven between a label and an artist always looking for new boundaries to trespass.
Gábor Lázár is a true sonic architect. It’s not clear whether he makes music that resembles sound art or vice versa, and perhaps it doesn’t really matter. Step after step, he has built his own idiosyncratic soundworld, a world that is not a human environment at all; but surprisingly (and luckily), it diverges from the majority of concept-heavy works seen in recent years in that it does not seem to be hostile to human presence. Whereas many embrace the apocalyptic worldview, he quietly opts for a fully automated one, without even referring to humanity, for better or for worse. Here lies the thin but crucial difference between anti-human and non-human.
Two years ago, on Unfold, Lázár rerouted his sound towards the dancefloor. Source starts where the previous one left, taking on the same sound palette – now clearly identifiable as his trademark – and updating its sonic references. Now we hear more prominent echoes of late ‘90s-early ‘00s, especially UK garage drum patterns (twisted and turned upside-down on “Source”, “Stream” and “Route” ), and dubstep absolute dominance of bloody heavy bass (everywhere on the album, especially on “Phase” and “Effort”). These references are called into retroactive action, but bear in mind that Source is the last record you could call retro. “Excite” and its ravey synth doesn’t sound nostalgic at all, but rather brings back a desperately needed sense of futurism. If rave was all about the future through the ‘90s lens, here we witness the ‘90s de- and re-constructed in the near future.
The whole album sounds like a Max MSP session on autopilot refusing to make austere, detached computer music and wanting to have a party instead. Apart from an unexpected and more than welcome piano piece rounding off the album and allowing us to breathe again, all the tracks on Source share a great deal of their DNA: angular and bleepy sounds bouncing all over the place, shaping a possible answer to the question “what do machines sound like without humans?” I would call it ‘elastic music’, for each small particle of sound is bent, stretched and twisted, taking on new shapes although in the beginning it’s always (kinda) the same. Elastic and bouncy, as the digitized drums seem to bounce from side to side in your aural space, and God only knows what mayhem they would ignite if heard on a proper soundsystem (I can imagine it being played in a club full of disembodied AIs wanting to lose their shit like us stupid humans do). Each track is like a different epileptic attack, with both basslines and melodies sharp as laser swords.
In a family tree, Lázár easily sits next to Mark Fell (with whom he collaborated on the majestic The Neurobiology of Moral Decision Making) and his son Rian Treanor, retaining his uniqueness as his recent music is more playful than Fell’s and more perversely sensual than Treanor’s. In fact, Lázár’s prodigious achievement is to sound ice cold and sensuous at the same time, stimulating both the brain and the body.
At first listen, the tracks on Source are not easy to digest and might sound like the same (complex) loop over and over, but listen closely and you’ll hear tiny variations and details which shimmer and witness Lazar’s creative genius. It would be understatement to say that Source is anything other than another flawless output from a torchbearer of the future in electronic music.