Sweeping forgotten corridors of sound, Scott Blixen sets his sights on Illés

Imagine yourself in a communist-era Hungarian rock band, if you will. No matter how receptive you may be to aftershocks from the other side of the Iron Curtain, you need apparatchik approval to perform and make records in your homeland. Illés formed towards the end of the 1950s, rode the wave of rock revolution and stayed on the right side of the censors until the early 70s.

In 1973, with a performance ban crippling the group, Illés created a freak ’n’ roll LP masterwork as their swansong. While ‘Ne Sírjatok, Lányok!’ is unashamedly a pop-rock record, it stirs indigenous folk, MOR and outer-space electronics into a swirling cauldron of joyful alien jive. Roxy Music performed a similarly daring highwire act conjured from a world of effete decadence on their first album, whereas Hungary’s sonic adventurers manifest magic in an altogether starker environment.

Unsheathing ‘Ne Sírjatok, Lányok!’ is a curious sensory experience, as Hungarian LPs of the 70s give off a strong smell of hospital-grade disinfectant. If Peter Tosh’s ‘Bush Doctor’ offered a scratch ’n’ sniff whiff of ganja, this LP evokes the air of bleak waiting rooms, until you drop the needle.

While the tactical deployment of synths transports the album into another dimension, it’s unclear which gizmos bandleader Lajos Illés was using. Soviet- made Polivoks and Aelita synths were available in Warsaw Pact countries and, since the USSR’s collapse, have become more widely known outside it. If these machines supercharged Illés, few other groups in 1973 were treating them with the same reckless abandon.

Side One ends with a one-two psychedelic sucker punch. ‘A Bolond Lány’ is a blizzard of mania-inducing percussion, savagely impolite synths and ring-modulated vocals. It’s profoundly skewed and betrays no obvious Western forebears. Before you can repair your frayed synapses, ‘Téli Álom’ is subjected to the kind of extreme tape phasing that induces sea sickness.

At this apex, ‘Ne Sírjatok, Lányok!’ seems to be the work of enlightened extraterrestrials, not least as Hungarian is an otherworldly tongue to many English ears. Musically, it orbits a distant planet where The Sweet and Black Sabbath are in combat with Brian Eno and Joseph Byrd’s United States Of America.

Side Two’s insistent ‘Nem Érdekel, Amit Mondsz’ exceeds everything you might have expected in synth-drenched rock of this era, again forcing voices through discombobulating effects. It’s followed by ‘Holdfény ’69’, with a synth break of breathtaking bravado. Without acid-fried experience, it’s difficult to know what psychedelia meant to folks in communist countries. To Illés, it clearly meant unfettered freedom.

You May Also Like
Read More


Sweeping the forgotten corridors of sound, Scott Blixen sets his sights on Servi