Uploaded to Aural Innovations: January 2004
Budapest, Hungary is a city that I hope to visit in the next year, not just because it is home to a some of my favorite bands... I understand it also is a beautiful and historic place. But because Stuttgart, Germany is not so far from my current home, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to catch Korai Öröm live in concert. Actually, the show was in the small quiet town Denkendorf, some distance to the southeast. My experience at travelling throughout central Europe in recent days has made it a simple thing to attend such a show, though this one provided a few challenges (it helps if the establishment is actually visible from the street that is given in its address!). No matter, I got there in plenty of time, early enough in fact to chat for awhile with the folks who run the Focus club as well as the band itself. The show started right on time and they played roughly 90 minutes or so. The setlist I can't provide for you, and if you own any Korai Öröm CDs yourself, you'll know why... they don't title any of their songs. Or at least they don't reveal them. Though I noticed that Emil Biljarski did indeed have a setlist scribbled out on his keyboard rack, with brief titles that meant (of course) nothing to me. But then I remembered seeing something called "Arab," which must have been the middle-eastern sounding tune I later heard that was accompanied by projected films of camels walking in the desert and such. So, all I can tell you is that they played the first three tracks from the '2001: Sound and Vision' CD (i.e., the blue one, not the red one) and then a bunch of tunes that I didn't recognize, which I was prepared for as Emil had mentioned to me before the show that they were working up a lot of new material for an album to be recorded sometime in 2004.
So, I'll tell you about the songs I know... second in the set (I think) was "Track Two," a great song that starts very simply with a mid-tempo linear beat... eminently danceable, which here I don't find is a bad thing at all. Other than the excellent circular guitar lick (courtesy of Peter Szalai, who also plays in the band Colorstar, who you should know about if you're reading this!) that comes in after about a minute, we get a nice mellow trumpet melody played by the one known as just "p.m." On this night, he was the guy sitting crosslegged on his own little stage "island" in the corner, who played all manner of funny things, including a didgeridoo, various whistles and flutes, a jew's harp, and as I said, trumpet. Next I think was "Track One," which starts off with a nice simple acoustic guitar riff, and then loads it up with a fast, syncopated bassline, the typical hyperkinetic percussion (bongoes on the side), and a bit of color with short guitar licks, synths, and other incidental effects. After some of the new material (including that nice "Arabian" piece), "Track Three" was eventually performed. This one has a much more deliberate beat, also with a touch of middle-eastern flavor, which was nice for those folks in the audience dancing non-stop so that they could at least conserve a bit of energy. On the album, this track actually has some true vocal lines... and in concert, they had vocals throughout the show (presumably by Tibor Vecsi, the one credited on the album, though I can't be sure about that). In many cases, the music is densely composed to fill up all the 'space' just by the many and various instruments not leaving much room for a vocalist to add more than a word or two here and there. So this was the one chance Vecsi had to be heard.
The remainder of the set was pure vintage Korai Öröm material, and although it didn't contain any recognizable material from the awesome '1997' disc, the show was definitely evidence that they haven't totally lost their touch. Hence, I look forward to the next studio album... their newest offering is a second "remix" album entitled 'Reflected,' which they suggest (on their website, www.korai.hu) is *more* than just ome "techno groove + some samples from the original." Which is what the first one ('Recycled') sounded like to me... so maybe I'll eventually give this other one a try, but I'm sure I will enjoy the new studio effort much more. The light show was almost exclusively done by projection of a computer-fed prepared program of digital movies, strange art works, and faux oil blots, psychedelic swirls and fractal-like imagery. Especially interesting was the one piece that was made up of what looked to be cave drawings of all sorts of weird animals, flashed up onto the screen in various places for only a brief moment in succession... rather like a history of evolution condensed to but three minutes. All of this stuff was really quite good and never boring to look at... the only minor problem was a few bits (especially near the beginning) where there was a little too much magnification relative to the poorer resolution of certain images, and hence it looked a little rough here and there. But that was the exception rather than the rule, and so it came out in the end as a really strong part of the overall performance.
Well, I consider myself priviledged to have experienced a live performance by what I consider to be one of the prime drivers of the post-1990 psychedelic rebirth. It seemed a little bizarre to have to travel to a tiny "youth culture house" stuck behind the sports hall in a remote suburb of Stuttgart to see this show. But I would say that although the number of attendees this night was only 50 or so, it certainly ranked as one of the highest percentages in terms of those who couldn't help themselves but to dance and/or sway with the music. Beforehand, the band looked a little tired from long travels, and Emil had said that he wasn't sure the main drummer, Viktor Csanyi, was "up to it" (or words to that effect) this night. Indeed, he has the roughest job... he has but a few drums to strike, but he was worked non-stop to keep the momentum going. I noticed just one moment during the first song, where he missed a beat or two while wiping the sweat from his brow with one arm... but then his second wind lasted through the whole rest of the show. A real trouper he was. It was the last show of the mini-tour, so he probably knew he had time to rest when it was all over. What a great show this was!
Reviewed by Keith Henderson