Reviewed by Cameron MacDonald (Pitchfork)
Composer Reszo Seress is blamed for at least 17 suicides, as urban legend has it. His 1933 ballad, "Öngyilkos Vasárnap" or "Gloomy Sunday"-- written after he made up with an ex-fiancée, but before she poisoned herself--- had been banned in the United States and his native Hungary. "The Hungarian Suicide Song", it was later called. Suicide notes allegedly hint to the tune's lyrics, and one tale says a delivery boy jumped off a bridge after overhearing a man whistling the song's melody.
Billie Holiday, an angel who lost her wings with $750 strapped to her leg and heroin found in her apartment, later recorded an English version of Seress's song. "Little white flowers will never awaken you/Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you/ Angels have no thought of ever returning you/ Would they be angry if I thought of joining you?/ Gloomy Sunday," she sang to a moon cloaked under bleary streetlight. Cynics can call that melodramatic, but the way the horns moan along with her to punctuate the end of her verses, her treatment sounds utterly convincing.
Aaron Funk (Venetian Snares) appropriately covered Seress and sampled Holiday's dread on Rossz Csillag Alatt Született, his 223rd album of shattering breakbeats and post-Aphex Twin poetics in the past five years. It's also his sharpest left turn to date, although Funk's juxtaposition of drill'n'bass beats with chamber orchestral sounds has been done by others for more than a decade, most notably on Aphex Twin's I Care Because You Do. But to his credit, Funk takes a chipped, charcoal pencil and illustrates a forest of leafless trees filled with the pigeons that he daydreamt of while watching the birds at Budapest's Royal Palace. Even better, his beats work with the orchestration instead of pulverizing it for an ironic counterpoint. Funk's baroque strings fittingly strike the air, while just about every melody is played with grinded teeth and bloodshot eyes.
The album title (translated "Born Under a Bad Star"), and its songs have Hungarian titles. "Sikertelenség" has Funk opening a body bag to show a disbelieving piano its deceased lover. "Szerencsétlen" walks a rickety plank with stacco violin stabs and a grinding "Amen" jungle breakbeat. "Második Galamb" indulges in more breakcore delirium and nearly sacrifices the visceral impact of the melodies struggling to pull through. The brooding string piece "Felbomlasztott Mentökocsi" and the chase-sequence dramatics of "Hajnal" are deftest songs that Funk ever recorded.
While Funk's percussive palate could have ventured beyond the standard-issued "Amen" breakbeats, Rossz's totality still possesses nerves that can cast shadows that never dissipate away from the mind in hours both sleeping and waking.
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