Deus erravit, veniunt machinae!
If it’s true that Kraftwerk were the pioneers of the Man-Machine theme, the hungarian Escalator have been one of the first band ready to draw consequences and act accordingly to this concept, translating it into a musical form which could connect Kraftwerk electronic music with Front 242 EBM and the industrial experimentations of avante-gardiste bands such as Throbbing Gristle, Clock DVA and Cabaret Voltarie. Officially born in 1988 in the strongly repressive atmosphere of the socialist Budapest, Escalator are a creature of the lively imagination of the enfant prodige 2rt+TB (in those days 15 years old) to whom soon added his older brother Igor 404, and is one of the best Electro-Industrial act ever.
Escalator’s music could be catalogued without any difficulties in the so called “old-school EBM” (a nowadays term to underline the difference with the new-school, much more harsh and noisy) and it is characterized by hard and often sparse danceable electronic beats, repetitive sequencer lines and lightly sampled vocals. The lyrics, mostly in Magyar, deal, in an obsessive way, with the very actual theme of attainment and conquest of the human society by the machines, showing that sense of anxiety and restlessness which hides behind the scientific development: technology which becomes, from an instrument controlled by the human being, the master of humanity itself, reducing it to obedience.
The first two albums “Non acustic music” (1989) and “Human Experiments” (1990) sum up perfectly what said before and, even though they weren’t produced by any label, Escalator quickly became a cult band in the underground Hungarian scene thanks to epic tracks such as Elektronik Automatik Teknik Music , Das Ist Verboten, Error and Human Experiments.
It was with “Helicopter” (self production, 1992) and “Antropologia” (EMI Quint 1993) that Escalator rised to the gotha of electronic and EBM: high-level quality , sublime tracks such as Idozitett Bomba, M.V.K.V., Számitógépes Lovagok were and will remain the most notable and involving products of the whole decade.
Moreover, the constant use of Magyar was able to lend a “east – European touch” which Slovenian band Borghesia fans know as well. In particular “Antropologia” is a very well composed album where every track is a potential hit and which alternates the post-industrial atmospheres and the aggressive rhythmic patterns, the themes about serialization and mechanization of existence (Antropologia –Doppel variation e Nekrophilia Mix) and most melodic tracks (e.g. Amnezia-Vegetative Mix). The final result is a masterpiece that shouldn’t be absent in any complete electronic music collection.
Moreover, in the meantime, Escalator were elaborating some short-videos (like the above-mentioned Clock DVA)which they projected during their live-acts. Thanks to the talented editing by 2rt+TB the filmed sequences, containing images of human beings and futuristic machineries superposed one upon another and projected “in loop”, were able to strengthen the anxiety of that era of mass –propagation of personal computer and new technologies.
Nowadays Escalator’s performances are still accompanied by these videos which fit perfectly with the implicit message of their music.
The journey of the band continued with “Arbeit” (Rockland, 1994) which shows a still prolific and rich disposition. The atmosphere of the disc, if possible, goes more anxious and disquieting, the use of looped samplers more pressing, the voice is often more strongly sampled in order to increase the feeling of in-humanity. The short melodic patterns are immediately overwhelmed by a intrusive, pervasive electronic deflagration, sometimes dissonant and oppressive or by the interpolation of winds and symphonic arrangements which give to the disc a post-apocalyptic touch (e.g. Armstrong 69 which is the last song of the LP, and not for casualness).
“Arbeit” moves the disquiet from earth to the entire universe, involving the other planets and describing a boundless, irreversible state of siege. The accession of the machines, listening to Apollo 17, seems to be not only unavoidable, but already occurred. Ardennek, Asteroid, Astronauta confirm this feeling and the talent of 2rt+TB in using repetitive musical structures, aggressive electronic, martial rhythms either reveal the serialization of human being or uphold the invigoration of themes such as the feeling of aggressiveness connected with the new technologies which have become totally independent of humanity.
After a period of latency lasted for 7 years (interrupted in 1999 by the recording of the single “Hivom a Multat”) in 2001 Escalator breed a new LP, which is not just an anthology of their former works: indeed “Escalator 1990-2000” (self production, 2001) contains some new songs, the most notable of which are the above-mentioned Hivom a Multat, and the incredible song Offenziva. The former will be included in “Lieder der Berge”(Electric Tremor Dessau, 2007) an anthology of EBM bands and in “Antologia” (Electric Tremor Dessau, 2009) the definitive collection of Escalator. The latter (Offenziva) is a true masterpiece in which a strongly danceable and aggressive rhythm and the more obscure voice of 2rt+TB make this track a unreachable hit. Unforgettable!
On the other hand Delfin is a most danceable and catchy tune and, after all, a true commercial song. For the most diligent listeners: same songs appears in different albums (also with different titles), but there is a work in progress in Escalator production, and the maniacal approach of 2rt+TB makes each version slightly different.
Some other singles were made in 2008 (such as the great Gepek lesztek, Gloria Machinis and Radio Budapest) but “Antologia” is, until now, the last chapter of Escalator’s saga (even if there’s a rumor that a new album is going to be produced in 2011, shortly before the Bite the Bit Festival), an involving, incomparable saga much more significant if we consider the period and the place where it started and the difficulties of communication connected with the socialist regime. This fact (the partial cultural isolation) makes Escalator’s ideas and work even much more remarkable and original.
Due to the socialist segregation and the tarry residue of this system of government which lasted even after the fall of Berlin’s Wall and the exit of Hungary from the Warsaw Pact, Escalator didn’t reach the fame they deserved in Europe, and their first live act outside Hungarian borders (where, instead, are a legend for the fans) dates back to 2008 at Dessau Beat Club, where they shared the stage (as headliners) with Armageddon Dildos.
After the recent performance at Flat Club (Venezia), Escalator are back in Italy thanks to Elektro Kommando which strongly wanted them performing at Bite the Bit Festival and consider this Hungarian duo not only a “cult band”, but also one of the most important band in EBM history, a band able to develop a personal journey in a very notable and independent way.
Credits : A.P.