The overindulgence of far too many producers’ mysterious personas can often lead to a lack of personality within their records. Kornél Kovács from Amsterdam's Studio Barnhus however does not fit this niche. His defining boyishness is a refreshing contrast to the gravely serious nature of house and techno producers dedicated to finding reverent audiences rather than raucous ones.
Kovács' diversion from this cold underground sound strays almost to the other end of the spectrum, weaving shiny pop sounds into infectious house beats. The track Pantalón from his aptly named Radio Koko EP epitomises this reworking of pop elements into something palatable. So when teased with the news of a debut album, it wasn't clear whether Kovács’ intention would be to iron out the silliness that had preceded it, or to harness this characteristic in an unhindered, squeaking, melodic frenzy.
The Bells doesn’t isolate itself to either of these extremes, but manages to find an unusual balance between poignance and immaturity. Through proving that the two are not mutually exclusive, Kovács has created a record which is as suited to being played on a Sunday afternoon as it is pounding through a club system the night before. This precedent is set within the first two tracks; the atmospheric Szikra Intro combines warm, spacey pads with subtly bouncing synth leads before the frenzied BB layers a looped guitar sample, building chords and occasional vocal fragments. A more playful tone is evident in Gex, a French-style Filter House track which creates a hectic combination of agitation and satisfaction. The intentional imperfections equally add to the chaos, with crackling distortions creating the illusion that you're listening to a recording of a live circus band, rather than a meticulously scrutinised studio master – Kovác's charmingly peculiar side revealing itself.
When listening to Dollar Club, Josey's Tune, Szív Utca, Pop and Urszusz however, you notice a subtle harmonic ringing - almost a melodic reverb which contrasts the bright synths in the foreground. It's this duality, this sense of underlying depth which gives The Bells its credibility. Whilst Gex, BB and Dance... While the Record Spins fit their brief to a tee, it's the rest of The Bells which sets it aside from a club compilation album and reveals Kovács' true capabilities as a producer. The irregularly swung percussion and constantly evolving synth lines in Dollar Club also pay testament to this, as does his ability to base the 6-minute entirety of Pop on one single riff.
When making the transition from releasing singles to albums, there is a new necessity for a motif or a signature sound. Whilst prior to the release of The Bells most would identify Kovács' quirk as his trademark, there may now be a sense of maturity creeping its way into his profile — and by no means in a negative way.
Words: Julian Caldwell