There’s a particularly acidic squelch to ‘Mr. Muscle’, the opening track of Új Bála’s latest burst of corroded electronica. It blurts out the speakers in flighty gasps, with a BPM hasty enough to induce flashbacks of UV squiggles in grungy basements, propelled by popping snares that give a martial galumph to the crusty bleeps. As a taster for the ravey textures to follow, it’s spot on. ‘Negative Kingdom Tapes Volume One’ is chock-full of such greasy bangers, a soundtrack to all those bleary nights out where a few drinks after work turns into a 12-hour marathon behind a doorway you’d struggle to find again even if you were armed with an invite, a personal email from the owner and a fresh update of Google maps on your phone.
‘Negative Kingdom Tapes Volume One’ is as fast and mean an Új Bála album as the oddball beats and noise of July’s ‘Breatharian High Society’, with a layer of oily slickness that recalls the tarnished sheen of ‘Maneki Necro & Friends’ from six months earlier. The battered piledrivers on display here are industrial disco in the finest tradition, evoking images of a factory full of machines whose output is non-existent, their mechanical intensity focused entirely on perpetuating their own eternal repetitions. That’s not to say this self-released tape isn’t a whole lot of dirty fun. For evidence, check out ‘Toto Lotto’, with its bizarre gnarly cries, phasing through interlocking layers of pounding belch. It’s a rakish stomp with transgressive sauciness to spare.
Although his corroded style hits the old outsider techno nail right on the head, Új Bála – aka Budapest’s Gábor Kovács – is a superior practitioner of the genre. Most of his tracks are birthed from the same setup of a 303, DSI Mopho analogue synth (“That synth is a lovely little troublemaker,” he told me over email a few months ago) and crummy sound card, with those trademark battered rhythms coaxed from the venerable yet endlessly adaptable Yamaha RX-5 (“Drums make me unstoppable,” he remarked in that same interview).
Yet, even if you’re not a gearhead, or haven’t heard an Új Bála album, one glance at the cover art would tell you all you need to know about this album. Kovács, wearing brown leather trousers, a white shirt and fetching scarf / cravat combo, is seated at his keyboard in a scene of boho dishevelment. His imperious glare suggests a louche Hapsburg émigré, disturbed from solitary artistic creation by the latest news from the old country. Just like in his music, decadence and hauteur share equal billing. Totally royal.