Art Reaktor - Our past is our present - 2000

"No sponsors, No thanks to anyone…"


Art Reaktor was a Hungarian band formed in 1987. At that time Hungary was nearly 30 years under a communist regime led by Janos Kadar. Kadar had a longstanding bargain with his people that if they kept their noses clean and didn't get involved in bourgeois ideas like liberal democracy they could have a secure and reasonably comfortable life: a Russian Lada, a flat for life, holidays on lake Balaton … But all this was financed by massive loans from the western banks and was about to collapse. Most people were going along with Kadar's pact, including an artistic community happy to pick up their monthly state salary.

At this time Josef Szurcsik was working an ambitious project. Taped industrial rhythms, Video back-projected imagery of hammers and primitive computer games, two massive painted profiles at the back of the stage, black costumes and intricate masks. Szurcsik's controversial lyrics ensured Art Reaktor had no record company, no sponsor and no management. But they managed to keep the show for almost two years on the road and played every venue in Budapest.


The musicians involved in all this were:
Miklós Mákó - Trumpet, vocal, percussion Gábor Németh - Drums, percussion Duncan Shiels - Vocals Jósef Szurcsik - Harmonica, vocals, percussion János Varga - Guitar, guitar synthesiser, synthesiser programming


The album counts eight studio tracks "White hot steel", "Laboratory", "A day", "Why?", "Tempest", "Ooo-Aaa, ooo-aaa", "Storm in the bathroom" and title track "Our past is our present" recorded in 1987 and four live tracks "Headache", "Freedom", "It's easy for you, Hungary" and "Sudden Voices" recorded at Sote University in Budapest in 1991. The music is a mixture of blues and jazz-rock and is experimental with a lot of industrial percussion and trumpet. With industrial percussion I mean the sounds of pneumatic hammers and drill-sounds. The live tracks are longer and even more experimental. They are close to avant-garde and experimental jazz-rock. You can't compare it to János Varga's band East or his János Varga Project (earlier reviewed in progVisions). So please listen first to it at your local record shop.


The ambitious project would have been a big multi-media spectacle if it were held in the west. Luckily the studio tracks were found back on a cassette tape; otherwise this music was lost forever. It's a good album but it will not be everybody's cup of tea. Together with the live tracks this recording is a historical document of that period in communist Hungary.

author - date - rating - label

Douwe Fledderus - October 2001 -   - Periferic Records