Gábor Lázár Is in Something of a Holding Pattern on 'Source'
Experimental electronic artist Gábor Lázár spins his wheels with a new album that's intermittently exciting but often lacking in variety.
26 June 2020
The sounds that Hungarian musician Gábor Lázár can pull out of state-of-the-art synths and programming are often fascinating and can result in a highly entertaining listening (and dancing) experience. With albums like Crisis of Representation, Unfold, and The Neurobiology of Moral Decision Making (his 2015 collaboration with Mark Fell), Lázár has carved out a unique artistic space with his futuristic and often maddeningly playful techno soundscapes. Now signed to Planet Mu, Lázár is back with Source, an album that sees him continuing along the same path, which is somewhat problematic.
The main issue here is redundancy. Most of the songs on Source follow a specific template -- twitchy avant-garde synth pieces described proudly in Lázár's press materials as "seizure-inducing futurist electronica", often latching on to a specific figure and hammering it into the ground for several minutes. In terms of fidelity, it sounds fantastic; all the glitches, edges, and stuttering beats sound crystal clear and are executed flawlessly. But they often come across as kernels of an idea that would greatly benefit from more layering. The album's first three songs, "Source", "Stream", and "Phase", all contain the same playful combination of robotic funk and jittery, sci-fi sonic patches. "Phase", for its part, tends to goose the album along with a faster tempo, resulting in a refreshing break in the monotony.
The brilliant, multifaceted "Excite" is where Source begins to take off. The basic skeleton of the piece is much like the rest of the album's songs, but Lázár smartly builds on it by adding more and more layers of melodies and sonic ideas. It's fully-formed, mesmerizing, and could easily be twice as long and just as enjoyable. The preceding three songs almost seem like a warm-up to this one. Elsewhere, the engaging "Route" shows promise, as the frenetic pace is somewhat tempered by a refreshing balance of sounds, although not as many as on "Excite".
Lázár pulls out another intoxicating highlight at the album's close with "Return", a major outlier in that it's essentially an ambient ballad with simple, stately keyboard lines and no percussion or twitchy electronica. The distorted tone of the keyboard gives the song a fuzzy, almost dream-like feel and makes for a perfect, meditative closer.
Gábor Lázár is a fascinating musician with a knack for creating unique soundscapes. He's made some great albums and will likely continue to make more. If Source were an EP at half the run time, it could be counted among his best works. But all too often, the album suffers from a lack of variety. Hopefully, that's a kink that can be worked out before the next release.