Tigrics: Hungarian Heart

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Budapest is a proud, rough city. Miles of once stately Hapsburg buildings sit under a century's film of dust, their tall windows peering down onto broad avenues. The bars, found even in underground pedestrian walkways, stay open until the wee hours. The homeless camp out in unused doorways while the city bustles.

"I travel a hell of a lot, so it's okay," states Róbert Bereznyei (a.k.a. Tigrics), when asked about the city he's lived in since he was a teenager, when he ran away from home in a nearby mining community with money he saved from tattooing. "I tattooed half the underworld in that industrial town–it made for good protection," says Bereznyei, who is always one to look on the bright side. "I was a problem child. I'm the type of guy who needs to figure out things by himself, you know?" It follows that his electronic music fuses the wild and the restless with the childish and the sublime–a vital, unorthodox combination evident on Synki, his new album for Highpoint Lowlife.

Bereznyei began fiddling with two tape decks and a mixer in 1995, and played in the noise band Rianás until 2000. "We played with whatever we could get, really, to disastrous effect," he jokes. "I do love and admire the ridiculousness factor in music. I'd rather sound stupid than just plain pretentious, but I also like deep, dark mixes."

In this spirit he molds a coherent album out of Synki's divergent songs, each one ricocheting between inner peace and the obsessions of a hyperactive mind. "Ja'tzkin," the album's 22-minute centerpiece, counterbalances gentle ambience and field recordings of birdsong with the sounds of tumbling dice, grinding tram wheels, and off-kilter pattering.

Some of the album's tracks "were recorded straight, with everything set up around me," explains Bereznyei. "It's sort of a sport: I'm pretending to be a band and trying to do a good take that has the feel I want, rather than just edit the hell out of [the songs]. But then again, I tend to do that a lot too."

Such is the case on "203 mibajodvan": in four-and-a-half tight minutes, claustrophobic, skittering percussion and strange sounds jostle one another, then fade uneasily into a bumpy bassline and heartstring twangs from an oddly tuned guitar.

Pushed for Budapest's finer points, Bereznyei mentions pals Ovek Finn and solo minimalists Nicron and Prell, as well as the Ultrahang Foundation, which releases CD-Rs by locals and organizes an annual boundary-pushing music festival. "It's a cool city, but difficult to live in," he sums up. "It's very bureaucratic and neglected. The theory is: if you survive here, you can survive anywhere."