Electronic Music by Young Hungarian Composers: an enjoyable if studious ride through late 1970s electronic soundscapes

Various Artists, Electronic Music By Young Hungarian Composers, Hungaraton, LP SLPX 12371 (recorded 1975 – 1981, released 1983)

In the order that their music appears on this album, the young Hungarian composers are Ivan Szekely, Miklos Csemiczky, Viktor Mate, Laszlo Kiraly and Istvan Szegeti. This collection is an excellent showcase of experimental work by artists who would otherwise remain very obscure although Viktor Mate has appeared on one other Hungarian electronic music compilation that I reviewed what seems like decades ago and which included older composers Zoltan Pongracz and Ivan Patachich.

The music was recorded at different times over a period of five to six years with Szekely’s recording being the earliest and the first on this collection. Kiraly’s contribution is dated 1980 and the rest of the music was recorded in 1981. To be honest, I can’t tell where one track ends and the next begins so this review will treat the album as a continuous whole. A very enjoyable ride as a whole piece, I might add: there are many strange moods and odd things a-happening, and at a couple of points in the tapestry we seem to be pursued by a pack of feral (and possibly rabid) dogs, but there really isn’t much that should worry us sonic tourists.

In Szekely’s “For Alrun”, a welcoming chorus of multi-tracked singing by vocalist Agnes Zsigmondi gives way to a series of noise blots and blats, and the occasional drone, into which snippets of recordings of Zsigmondi’s sighs and breathing are inserted. This is a friendly, lively track though it has a very experimental air and doesn’t lead anywhere much. Csemiczky’s “Meditation Mortis” tends to be fairly quiet but has some interesting metallic tone sequences, especially around the halfway mark where an organ drone rumbles on beneath tinny fairy sparkles. “Viatrone” (V Mate) was composed for trombone and tape which makes this a very distinct piece of experimentation in creating particular moods through solo trombone. While much of the track is long droning brass sound, there are two sections of bubbly pitter-patter licks (the sources of the yappy dog noises). Kiraly’s “Piano Piece” is rather more than what the title suggests: there is actually a lot of mysterious ambient effect throughout the track with noises that bump in the darkness, phantom whistle and other poltergeist activity, more so than any ivory-tickling. Of course all these effects are manipulations of the piano keys, strings, hammers and more besides. The track is quite fragmented though, there’s not much sense of direction and it all peters out quietly.

The longest track is Szigeti’s “Souvenir de K” at over 12 minutes so you’d expect it to be a varied work which it is. Like the others, this tends to be low-key, experimental and unstructured, just letting sounds develop how they will. This is the second of the two tracks here to use human voice, this time courtesy of reciter Katalin Liptay who limits herself to spelling out vowel sounds or rapid-fire speech outbursts. A parade of synthesiser effects swoop or burble around Liptay’s enunciations. The track ends with what appears to be a reading by Liptay.

While a fairly subdued and studiously minded recording, the album does have very interesting sounds and moods and might serve best as a source of material for DJs and others looking to spice up their own work with effects and field recordings. The album can be heard at this Youtube link.