Borealis – Voidness

Borealis is the solo project of Hesse Somfay, part of the Origami Sound collective who describe themselves as “an ever growing collective of artists and labels aimed towards introducing the highly subjective concept of quality emotional electronic music with an emphasis on eclecticism” – a statement that I find to be largely true within the music of Borealis and associated acts like Hmot and Nocow, the sound of which is concentrated largely on the ethereal and meditative nature of IDM godfathers Boards of Canada to the moodiness and the skeletal structure evocative of Burial.

Voidness is something of an epic, an electronic odyssey into something personal but also distant and strange. Clocking in at 1 hour and 15 minutes Voidness serves as an electronic exploration that delves into and builds off of the genres of earlier contemporaries.

Most of the tracks on Voidness are simple which is best heard on Orphan Fire, a song includes a repetitive overtly minimalistic structure which would normally be boring but it all fits together so well in the context of the album, what the music here is trying to accomplish. Like a futurist sharpening a set of kitchen knives, the beats are sharp and angular sounding but they are almost always arranged in such an interesting way. Tracks like ‘Intravenous’ show off the spontaneous nature of Voidness as loud explosions of metallic clanging often erupt at seemingly random times. The arrangements are futuristic and favor simplicity and mood while the beats are strange, never out of time with each other but more so off-kilter, irregular rhythms that bring a spontaneous element to an otherwise straight-forward album giving the otherwise ultra sleek sound that is Voidness something natural, something human and deliberately flawed.

Borealis’ makes a kind of electronic music that in a way is very much his own and while it may be unique in an out of context kind of way, comparatively ‘Voidness’ takes quite a large chunk of inspiration from musicians who have already pursued what Borealis is doing here. What I think listeners will pick up on first are those pitch-shifted disembodied chipmunk-esque vocal samples that have been used to death by nearly every future-garage / dubstep musician. Although there are some obvious borrowed ideas the effort and attention to detail within ‘Voidness’ is uncanny and definitely worth a few listens.

Voidness is a highly emotive piece of work that brings a necessary emotional aspect and level of intimacy to electronic music that is often seldom heard. The album takes the listener on a moving journey through the crossfades of the digital polish of electronic music, a certain physical viscera and interweaves the two together. While some may feel that Borealis is borrowing too heavily from his contemporaries this is definitely an overlooked piece of electronic music that deserves a higher seat in the electronic of 2012.

Overall Rating: 8.3

Favorite Tracks: ‘Womb’, ‘Unseen & Uncalled’, ‘Not Of This Reality’, ‘Intravenous’, ‘Wearied, We Keep Awake’

Recommended: Check out the rest of the Origami Sound catalogue.

Released: 13 July 2012

Links:

Check out ‘Voidness’ on Origami Sound’s Bandcamp

Redntoothnclaw

Vasko – Enough Enough

Vasko is the solo recording project of Brian Sopher, a Columbus, OH musician who has busily recorded, produced, and released music as Glasslung, Folted and has performed as a duo in drone / noise project Hintergrund. ‘Enough Enough’ is Brian’s first dubstep release as well as the first EP under the name Vasko.

I missed my chance / procrastinated in reviewing this when it was released late last year but nonetheless, I feel like this should be talked about and deserves a review regardless of whether it is still relevant.

On this EP Vasko’s style of dubstep is a dark and disjointed journey thats plays off of it’s minimalistic influences. The song structure is skeletal, basic, built on deep sub bass that tectonically shifts beneath an aura of ambience resulting in something sleek and futuristic while having the same mystery and curious appeal as some dusty lost tape recording. There are large spacial synth swells that produce this overarching feel of something expansive or maybe even cosmic but at the same time everything still remains restrained being careful not to overwhelm. The overall mood is calm even though there is this surrounding unease, a sense that not all is right and that beneath the soft airy synths is something deeply sinister. Everything is neatly organized but still has the organic feel of a piece of drone music where it forces one to pay attention and pick out parts of the music taking away something ambiguous and new to each listen.

The album begins strong, ‘Touching Till’ is a sensual pursuit of bass heavy rhythms that features a sample that repeats throughout the track. It may be just me but I get this slight R&B influence as well, not only on this track but on the EP in it’s entirety. The beats are thin sounding, and at times seem to fall out of time with each other. Its a primitive approach, stripped down to a wiry sound, one that is as dark and mysterious as it is comforting. I could honestly listen to it over and over again. One of my favorites, ‘Women’ is a beautiful feast of synth sounds that contains little in the way of beats or dubstep and for what it is, it is just fine. There is a tasteful palette of delicately layered synths that does enough to make up for the sparse beats.

The album closes with ‘Traumzeug’, a stark interpretation of post-dubstep that at times outshines the classification itself. There is this distant metallic clanging that keeps the beat throughout ‘Traumzeug’ bringing out this feeling of anxiety, building tension that never sees release and ultimately leaves you waiting for something that never comes. Relying heavily on a minimalistic approach I can’t help but feel like there were moments where the music became repetitive and felt stagnant which I can imagine is always a  concern when creating something like this. Fortunately the songs are a good length, never going past the five minute mark ensuring that if things do become boring they aren’t boring for long.

The focus of Enough Enough tends to favor atmosphere over beats and like much of Brian’s work prior to Vasko, it has this same strong ambient presence that runs throughout the songs on this EP which makes for a fairly even blend of relaxing ambience and minimalist dubstep in an attempt to challenge the listener with a few unconventional sounds.

Overall Rating: 7.9

Favorite tracks: ‘Touching Till’, ‘Conveyor’, ‘Women’

Recommended: Futuristic; fans of UK garage and Burial will have no problem getting into this.

Links:

Brian’s Soundcloud profile

His previous work as Glasslung

Zoo Kid

Starting off with the most famous one, Pitchfork best new music and all. There’s a nice video for it here. This is a pretty cool song, interesting guitar work and enough reverb to drown an orchestra. The guitar is unpretentious and straightforward but pretty and carries a punch during the chorus. The singing is certainly what stands out the most. Again, unpretentious confessional singing, the voice carries a bit of anger and disdain, the classic “I don’t give a fuck” feel, but also a spoonful of emotion. This is pretty much ready to listen, I’ll move on to the other tracks.

More emotional than out getting ribs. Less catchy but a pretty song as well, again the careful but scratchy, careless-cool guitar work. The singing tries to go straight to the heart, I’m not sure if it really ever gets there, the most memorable thing is the overall “darkwave” feeling which emanates from everything, as well as the shady guitar tone, the deep teenager voice and the broken forced-out melodies that, if you stop to pay attention, show to be really intricate and well constructed. It naturally changes while keeping a loose unity to the track and never gets boring. Very well crafted.

The other tracks he has up are Baby Blue, A Lizard State, Has This Hit, The Wake and Greyscale. You’ll find them in his bandcamp. They don’t deliver as much goodness as the previous two and are very “formative”, his influences are really transparent and there’s plenty of exploration, as it’s only natural. He messes with, at least, rap, strange sounds, melodramatic emotions, electronic beats and a harsher punk/noise sound. They are all very different and what they all have in common is that dark reverb angsty feel that defines the two tracks above. It’s nice to see how fast this guy improved and how effective he was in learning what he was good at and focusing on that.

Nice work from an up and coming guy, good luck with your new recordings dude.

-Carpeaux