Gábor Lázár

In a 2015 interview, Hungarian sound artist Gábor Lázár said that in his creative process, he is “trying to give different answers to my own questions”; composition, in other words, is inseparable from research. Experiencing Lázár’s music can offer a jolt to your own inquisitive state. His tracks are crafted in such vivid detail, it is as though they were organisms viewed through a powerful microscope. At its extreme, this technique can induce a gratifying kind of existential dread.

But Lázár’s first album for Planet Mu, Source, isn’t necessarily designed for dissecting. His 2014 record ILS, on Lorenzo Senni’s Presto!?, was rooted in Lazar’s background in sound design, while his 2018 release on Powell’s label the Death Of Rave, Unfold, invoked club aesthetics and rarefied rave production similar to the style Rian Treanor would pursue on his 2019 album ATAXIA. Source picks up the deconstructive thread running through much recent left-field electronic music—Senni’s trance pointillism, Beatrice Dillon’s interrogation of dub techno—in a playful, danceable manner. Caustic synths, hyperventilating cadences, and skittering pads make for a heady interpretation of soundsystem rhythms, neatly placing Lázár between hedonism and academic inquiry—a feat that’s often difficult to execute with this much charm.

“Phase” is particularly frenzied, with mutated 2-step rhythms and oscillated bass notes stretched to their limits, while “Excite” executes flighty synth lines alongside leaden clang. To craft these complex algorithms, Lázár uses the software Max/MSP, also a favorite of collaborator Mark Fell, who worked alongside Lázár on 2015’s simultaneously jarring and meditative The Neurobiology of Moral Decision Making. Source indicates a newfound maturity in Lázár’s sound and spotlights a more palatable application of rhythm and melody, which his past records, for all their virtuoso sound design, sometimes lacked.

Source feels bolder, sharper, and more emotive than the last record; that’s especially true of tracks like “Effort,” where the swiveling bass contorts and jumps almost like dubstep. But where Source falls short is in its uniformity; there are moments where it is difficult to distinguish one track from the other, particularly in the case of “Phase” and “Route,” but the disjointed rhythms and mind-bending curves still make for a hypnotic affair. The energy lets up with the introspective ambient closer “Return”: Gentle keys work a daybreak melody that wouldn’t feel out of place on Squarepusher’s tenderer early-’00s output, as if providing a cathartic breathing space from the earlier delirium.

Source is unrelentingly stimulating, lighting up the full spectrum of sound like the blinking signals on a circuit board. Lázár picks apart dance music’s tropes and investigates how far such forms can be pulled while remaining recognizable. The intellectual detail from past records remains, but the brutalist rhythms make for a stellar execution in futuristic dance.

Buy: Rough Trade


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