Korai Öröm - "1997"
(Vad Palmak Ltd 1997, indie release)

From Aural Innovations #4 (October 1998)

You could say that this band is HOT, but then that could mean either of two things... first, literally that Korai Öröm performs blazing hypno-trance rock, or secondly, that they are the 'Hungarian Ozric Tentacles'. While the second definition may hold some degree of truth, I'd prefer to say that this large congregation of musicnauts (with numbers ranging from nine to eleven!) has something quite different to offer. For starters, I'm not certain that any other space rock group has featured clarinet solos before. But there's more strangeness beyond that. Percussion is a particularly emphasized component of the music, and the line-up for this particular release (their third CD, fourth overall) credits four members (apart from the primary drummer Viktor Csanyi) with percussion as their primary function. Needless to say, the base rhythms are exceptionally well defined, and for most compositions provide the foundation over which all the other instruments are layered.

Korai Öröm has this strange habit of not titling any of their works, and that includes both albums and the individual tracks within, so I'll make up my own. Track One I'll call simply 'Hoo! Haa!,' as that's what you hear chanted over top of the music for a spell. Here, as in many tracks to follow, the bass lines of Zoltan Kilian are irresistible though hardly complex. Track Two ('Rasta,' because that's the only word I recognized in the lyrics) is a nine-minute rave-style piece embellished by screaming guitar, flute and some blaring trumpeting all by Peter Takacs. Keyboardist Emil Biljarski takes center stage at the outset of Track Three ('Space Battle') with some crazy phaser-like synth noises against a quick staccato beat. Later, a clever effect is produced when the music suddenly becomes muted that makes it seem as if you went out to the kitchen for a moment. Just as quickly, the trance-inducing onslaught returns. 'Gilmour' is next, with Takacs' guitar parts recalling the arpeggiated leads of the current Floyd headmaster on his solo hit 'Blue Light.' 'Kookaburra' (or Track Seven) features Vilmos Vajdai's didgeridoo, an instrument for which they seem to have a particular fondness. The album ends up with the 15-minute epic 'Trance or Consequences,' building atop a cool bass groove with droning synths, multiple guitar solos, both flute and clarinet solos, and female-voice mantric chanting. A definite highlight, but the lone track that I thought went on a bit too long.

Whereas previous albums (get those, too) were less up-front, '1997' really comes at you with 'in your face' dynamics and punctuated beats for 70 trance-inspiring minutes. Amidst their light/slide show (credited to yet another four persons), I'd imagine that a present-day Korai Öröm performance is quite a memorable event (not to say that it wouldn't have been before). At least it's something I'd very much like to witness. On one hand, this new album offers many of the same qualities as most techno or rave music, but then it also avoids that common stale, over-programmed quality by instead sticking to more 'earthy' instrumentation. (Perhaps that's the wrong adjective, because it's downright spacey.) The reason to buy '1997' is not just so you can boast to your friends that you listen to Hungarian space rock (and hence are cooler than they are), but rather because this music is truly unique. Strongly recommended to spaceheads everywhere.

You can visit Korai Öröm at their web site.

Reviewed by Keith Henderson

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