Published Sep 25, 2012This is the debut album from Ontario-based musician Jesse Somfay under the new alias of Borealis. The 19-track project takes a significantly different stylistic approach to creation than Somfay's previous work, though he still manages to evoke an introspective depth of ethereal proportions. Recorded over a month-long stretch, each piece is a delicate balance of carefully selected samples teetering on beams of varying emotion, emotions whose chemistry cannot be explored through words or hedonistic exploits. The pulsating rhythms of "Crimson Purple" bleed through a variety of rough-yet-subtle vinyl textures and eerie, melodic atmospheres while retaining an extremely alluring quality of discovery, moving forward and exploring the unknown. Musically, it is clear that Somfay isn't motivated by anything, but the pursuit and exploration of human (and arguably non-human) consciousness. The sharp stabs of uncertainty in "Black Drop" pose an intermittent change of perspective from the dub-y, two-step fusion and motion of "Womb," as do a number of shorter works on the album that veer off onto a different path than the more rhythmically-driven tracks, though these smaller works serve as positive accents of fluidity for Voidness as a whole, never feeling out of place. Borealis is galaxies ahead, guiding listeners through a multiverse unattainable for so many.
You've released quite a bit of music over the last five years. What is different about Voidness in comparison to your previous work?
Voidness, and Borealis itself as a project, was born of an intricate life situation where I was enduring quite a lot of emotional tension and I gradually released that tension through starting Borealis and giving birth to Voidness. It was the whole "breakdowns lead to breakthroughs" thing. It is a very raw body of work that was all done in the moment, aside from some minor editing after the bulk of the work was completed with each piece. I rolled each piece out in one or two days, in a period of around one month total, spread over a couple different patches of time in the first half of 2010. Prior to Voidness, most of my work was planned out. For example, I'd written draft notes in my sketchbook for all of the pieces on A Catch in the Voice and would follow those notes while making the tunes. Voidness brought me back to a place where I was creating music in the moment, which was similar to what I did before I had any official releases. It brought me back to a pure state of translating the mystical into the audible so that I could share those deep feelings with others.
Can you tell us a little bit about Origami Sound? What is it like to work with them from an artist-to-label point of view?
To put it in the simplest of terms, Origami Sound is now a part of my extended family. I have developed some amazing friendships out of it. Stefan [Herne] would be the guy to look to for a more detailed answer, but I can say that it is a unique situation, not unlike the relationship I have had with Pheek's community: Archipel. This aspect of community has become a very strong and central factor with Origami Sound, I feel. It is so much more than just a label where you hand over your work, sign a contract and that's it. The friendships I have made in the Origami Sound community are very close and I love them like family. We inspire each other and cross-pollinate each other with ideas. Releasing Voidness is not just for me or Origami Sound as a label, but for the whole community; it has really been a spark that ignited a fire in us all. We just want to spread meaningful tunes by very human people and hope that we can help ignite something in others that will help them through life. What other reason could there be to release meaningful music other than to want it to communicate with, and help, others?
What do you hope listeners will take away from Voidness?
I just hope that they feel something and something in it resonates, even a tiny sliver of it, if anything. I hope that something about it will help them in their lives and give them something, whether it's another flash of euphoria from far away, another pocket of air to breathe, so to speak. I hope that they are perturbed by it in the best possible way for their situations in life. It doesn't even have to have words to describe it ― what they might feel― all I want is for them to feel something for themselves and to reconnect with something through it.
So many Canadian electronic musicians have moved to Europe in hopes of being able to better support themselves via music. Does that appeal to you at all?
I don't think it is a matter of where one is physically that determines being able to support oneself or not, but rather what one is willing to do, what lengths one is willing to go to support oneself. I don't have plans to move to Europe, but I also don't have plans to stay in Canada. I will flow with the flow when I know the time has come to move. So many people try to plan their lives out like an accounting ledger and I feel that is too much of a sacrifice to pay for not taking the risk of encountering the unknown. You don't get as disappointed if things don't work out when you haven't made plans for them to work out. You just accept it, learn from it and move forward. Rhetorically: does nature plan the quantity of trees it shall grow in a forest?
If no to above, do you think living just outside of Elora, ON has an effect on the music you make?
It definitely has an effect on how I make music because the energy out here is far less tense and is much more harmonic than in a city. Is the energetic effect on my music regarding my location deeply embedded in what I catalyze? I would probably say not as much as one would think at first because I spend a lot of time living "outside" of the world, so to speak ― living internally. That is why it affects "how" I make music, but not necessarily the core content of the music. Of course, it is all cause and effect, so there will always be some degree of effect from my environment, which makes its way into the music. Let's just say my main sources of inspiration do not mainly come from the wavelengths of electromagnetic energy, which are directly perceivable by the body's most common senses alone.
You don't play live that often. Can we expect any live Borealis shows in the future?
This is another thing that I find hard to tell. I do want to play live and live sets are what I am most often asked for. The main reason, for now, is that I want to focus on creating/catalyzing music rather than playing versions of it live. There is, and probably will be, a place and time for that, but it is not in the immediate future. I know it will line up in such a way that I could never really have predicted and I'll be able to do something meaningful for people when everything falls into place. It is also a matter of having the right audience, which is not entirely in my control. I really want an audience who will lose themselves in experiencing the music rather than drinking and talking to each other over the music. I'm not here to provide audible wallpaper. The experience I want to share is more aligned with what raves used to be about in the '90s. Although I didn't get to experience that, as I was too young ― my older friends have told me stories of how it used to be ― that is the kind of experience I would want to share. That would make my effort worth something. The experience has to be reciprocal.
There is so much quality electronic music being released these days. Are there any artists or releases you are into that are particularly special to you? If so, why?
My friend, Liar, has an album forthcoming on Origami Sound, which I am really feeling. It is completely evergreen for me already; he has given me the honour of doing the album art and package design for it. It's an unbelievably powerful body of work, like being caught in the magnetic updraft of a solar prominence arcing away from the sun's surface. I've also really been feeling my friend Sense's album, Selected Moments Volume 1, which was released not too long ago on Psychonavigation. It is immeasurably deep and he always puts his feeling into his music as directly as possible, as in the moment as possible, with non-linear influences. I have also been in constant resonance with what Burial has been releasing since he began releasing his music. There is a lot in his work that can't really be spoken of with words, but I feel a lot of it very deeply. It reminds me of so much that I have felt and experienced and is something I can patch into no matter how I'm feeling and has helped me get through a lot.