That the cassette world continues to produce a steady stream of bangers spawned from the original house/techno virus shouldn’t be a surprise. The format’s relatively low cost of entry, combined with the centrality of bootleg mixes and rave tapes in the beathead folk memory, provide sufficient prompts for those committed to the path of the kick drum to embrace the pull of the J-card. Personally, I’m all for it. I’d take a C90 full to the brim of grimy brainmelters over a lovingly mastered CD promising to take me on a ‘journey’ any day of the week.
I first came across Uj Bala – aka Budapest musician Gábor Kovács – in last year’s Boka, which is a perfect point of departure for anyone starved of technoid clatter of the most degraded kind. Released on the great Baba Vanga label, it marries abrupt pitch shifts to grey smudges of noise and distorted, obtuse synth smears, with a rusty chassis of wayward drum splutters driving things forward.
Check out Que Mala Suerte, the opening cut on Side B to get a glimpse of Bala at his madcap best. A cowbell-heavy grid of bare percussion has a tasty whiff of Detroit at its most martial, although those flavours are soon banished by a haze of noxious, decaying synth chords and distorted, asymmetric bloops that drown everything in their toxic barf. I Break Horses is pure class too, its moody electro bass judder stirring up wild bursts of wiry debris and a repeated siren holler that’s the delinquent child of Rebel Without A Pause’s notorious kettle screech. Since it came out Baba Vanga has put out plenty more strong cuts, but Boka is definitely a highlight.
Kovács has been at it more recently with the blasted trap of Maneki Necro & Friends. Those nauseous electronics hubble and bubble even more than on Boka, with a malevolent energy that darn near collapses the rhythmic infrastructure. The beats are more syncopated too, emphasizing a syrupy, hip-hop inflected lurch in place of a four-to the floor push. Tip Top Presso Bar executes a deft copy-paste of a Skream synth line into a thudding UGK backing track, although the scrunchy fidelity suggests Kovács grabbed the original sound file from a dodgy Russian download site. The tracklist has a fair few interludes of more abstract noise tucked into its rusty cracks – Nevada Gaming Board is a cute example- referencing Kovács’ other interest in more punk-oriented noise, but when excess is whipped into shape by (slightly) more regularised grids that the magic really happens.
The Lion King Simulator Program serves up a nice line firecracker snares and videogame warble, a bit like Clams Casino after too many rides on the seaside waltzer. Cannibalism Is The Next Logical Step, meanwhile, is the real fuckup, staggering around in a mess of saucepan clatter and whirligig electronics, all the time raining down molten bleep drops on the burnt rubber of its synth wail, evoking images of a pissed-up bro in a nightclub on a works do, arguing with his boss before vomiting all over the floor.
The gutter is an unpleasant place to be, but it’s where this album puts itself, its rancid beats a traumatized response to the new American era. This is the media-entertainment complex with its skin flayed, Uptown Funk looped endlessly in a post-Inauguration Hell. Imagine a skeletal Bruno Mars wandering around Trump Towers, starved and alone, his silk pajamas tatters, yowling at Julio to get the stretch, his pockets filled with rotting fruit and his ears plugged to block out the cries of a thousand deportations. A feverish, lopsided delight.