Kornél Kovács wants you to have a good time. His previous singles have included references to Bugs Bunny and the cheesiest Italo, while the Studio Barnhus label he co-runs has come to define a new Swedish house sound, putting fun and sincerity before cool. This is particularly true of Kovács, who nudges closest to pop sensibilities in his productions. Put simply, the Barnhus crew want you to dance, but they want you to smile while you’re at it.
What makes the Barnhus stable so appealing is the execution and the inventiveness that underpins that pleasure drive. In his debut album, Kovács doesn’t just give us an hour of feelgood fun – though there’s plenty of that to go around. The Bells presents an exploration of moods and styles we haven’t heard from him before, all presented with that glossy Kovács touch.
This new range is clear from the very opener, where Kovács retools past single Szikra into a melancholy beatless intro. Here crystalline chords leave muted trails of reverb – echoing the sampled rain running down a window pane. The same downcast atmosphere is revisited periodically across the album, from the stately beauty of Szív Utca to the old-world glamour of closer Urszusz.
Yet Kovács is always at his best when configuring dance forms into catchy, colourful shapes – and the album is fairly overflowing with great examples from a range of genres. Where BB and Dollar Club are excellent (if unsurprising) takes on filter-house and chirpy rave, other tracks reach further afield – hear the cute take on UK Funky of Josey’s Tune or the Gold Panda-esque electronica of The Bells.
There’s an undeniable poppiness and easy appeal to Kovács’ music which may offend more austere dance fans, especially in an age where ‘sincerity’ and ‘cool’ seem to inhabit opposite ends of a spectrum. But if you have space in your heart for music which is as catchy as it is well-produced, there’s a lot to love here.