Band: Kepzelt Varos
November 19, 2009
City: Budapest, Hungary
Debut Album Release Show
While Brooklyn is unofficially considered the current indie music capital of the world, most people in Hungary probably don’t care and couldn’t point it out on a map. So it was very refreshing to see a good band who has no common link to most of the independent music we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Hailing from Budapest, Képzelt Város was a pleasant surprise on a night where my friend and I only knew that some locals were bringing us to a random location to see a “Hungarian Post-Rock” band, as they described it.
Tuzrakter pretty much appeared to be a haggard complex of small bars, art studios, and a somewhere a venue. After paying a small fee, we were then permitted to walk down a dingy looking staircase covered in grime and graffiti. Downstairs consisted of a narrow hallway with some couches, flanked by more sketchy hallways with more dirty couches. Our local friends didn’t let us stick around long enough to find out what the people sitting on them were up to. Eventually, we found the room where the band would be playing. It wasn’t very large and the floor was basically a basketball court, but the ceiling was so low you couldn’t possibly take a jump shot without banging your head. We also wondered what the recording mic and sound engineering station were both doing right in the middle of this room. When Képzelt Város took the stage the answer to that was pretty obvious. Not only was the quality of their music better than we presumed beforehand, but the acoustics of a room that at first glance appeared better suited for a three piece punk band, than a six piece lineup that includes two guitars and a cello, were also pleasant surprise.
Képzelt Város’s sound is sonic, layered, huge, and with every song being about five to seven minutes in length, epic in nature. Having also listened to their new album a few days later, they definitely do an amazing job of having their songs resonate in a live setting, without a hint of diminished quality. You could even say they sound better live. Some bands are just born to play in front of people. With Képzelt Város this could be explained by the fact that this show was for the release of their first album, Mit Nekem, but they have been playing live since 2005. The lyrics are in Hungarian and often few and far between, but singer Gergő Oláh’s vocals are strong and at times haunting. Like some guy probably said long ago, by saying less, sometimes you really are saying a lot more. It would be unfair to compare Képzelt Város to Sigur Ros in anyway other than that the language barrier of the vocals is irrelevant because of the fact that it all sounds so beautiful. Instrumentally vibrant, the songs rise and fall several times a track, it feels exciting, then sentimental, and sometimes both simultaneously. A major part of this also comes from the cello played by Gyöngyi Barta. While some bands add strings simply as a ploy that just appears awkward and cheesy, it’s hard to imagine these songs without it.
While listening to the album that first time, two of the songs from their live show were immediately recognised. They appear to be some strongest of the band’s small catalogue. “Hercules” and “White Noise” both contain the same basic aesthetics as the others, but have added elements that create excitement about the possibilities of what could come from this band in the future. “Hercules” is mostly instrumental, but mid-track the vocals are a creepy spoken word Hungarian sample that fits incredibly well. On “White Noise” the guitars are cohesive, quick, and bounce off each other; while the noticeable distortion and hints of feedback don’t distract from, but add to the already complex sound. Both songs show that Képzelt Város aren’t afraid to experiment, while also retaining the qualities that make them so endearing in the first place. I’m excited to see how they progress and look forward to their future releases. You can download their new album for free on their website at kepzeltvaros.hu. If you’re ever in Budapest try and see if they’re playing, they do quite often, and are definitely worth checking out.
– Ian Lewis