Kornél Kovács The Bells
The Swede intersperses greatest hits with staggering beauty.
For someone with a studio discography as brief as his, Kornél Kovács‘ body of work is unusually difficult to pin down. This stems in part from his hand in label-cum-DJ collective Studio Barnhus, where Axel Boman and Petter Nordkvist join him at the forefront of a boundary-pushing new era of Swedish electronic music. From their wonderfully eclectic sets to uncanny knack for sourcing local talent, the trio’s impact in Stockholm has been unprecedented.
Kornél’s solo recordings tell a similar story. Where many house and techno practitioners often conceive of the styles as a final destinations, they always seemed like a means to an end for him—a medium for investigating something far more multi-faceted than the confines of the DJ booth. In disregarding their rules and limitations, his compositions feel simultaneously individual and timeless, allowing him to transcend the countless permutations that four-on-the-floor music has undergone since its inception.
The Bells, scheduled for an August 26 release, signifies substantial artistic growth for Kornél. Considering that 2015’s Radio Koko and Nincs mark his most lengthy releases to date with four tracks apiece, the 10-track LP is a testament to the singularity of his vision. With this renewed conviction comes a comfort in revisiting elements that have elevated his work beyond conventionaldance music in the past. “Josey’s Tune” and “Dollar Club” recall the otherworldly dancehall and reggaeton-tinged “Malon,” while “Szív Utca” and “Dance… While The Record Spins” hark back to the dreamy, playful house of “Down Since ’92,” “Baby Step,” and more.
On top of a compelling nod to past material, the record still manages to put forth a sizable dose of new sounds, textures, and moods. This is established explicitly in the album’s opening seconds. Here, Kovács reworks his hugely popular “Szikra” single, gracing it with layers of hazy, slow-motion ambience. Directly after, “BB” delivers something akin to a collage of long-lost funk cassettes, a grainy aesthetic largely absent in past work. The whole show concludes with what sounds like a voicemail of a close friend gleefully shouting his name repeatedly, a fitting end to a full-length so unapologetically candid.
All in concert, it’s unlikely that the various moving parts of The Bells will fall neatly into place on first listen. From his disregard for stylistic uniformity to his willingness to weave unfiltered personal artifacts into each song, Kovács calls for patience and true emotional investment in a contemporary electronic music industry that often prioritizes immediacy above all else.
Those willing to take the plunge into Kornél Kovács’ alluring, expansive, meticulously-orchestrated world, however, may find themselves unable to leave.
A1. Szikra Intro
A3. Dollar Club
B2. Josey’s Tune
B3. Dance… While The Record Spins
C1. Szív Utca
C2. The Bells
The Bells is available August 26 on Studio Barnhus. Ahead of the release, hear “Dollar Club” in the player below.