Published Apr 04, 2013Ghislain Poirier steps out from his dancehall milieu to drop this techno album as Boundary. Bright, cinematic and heavily digital — several analogue synth parts aside — Boundary is more akin to the output of early Warp or underground Finnish producer Ukkonen than the canon of Detroit or Berlin techno. The danceable beats feel more like cheeky stowaways rather than an invited guest, but nonetheless have a welcome place at the table.
What made you want to put out a techno record? It's quite different from the music you make as Poirier.
Yeah it is! [Laughs] It just came naturally, actually. After Running High was released in 2010, I toured a lot and I was pretty exhausted so I kinda took a break from making music for a few months or maybe even a year. I still did some music but less intensively, and I wanted just to make music like I used to — just for fun, not with a specific goal but more like "Hey, I'm gonna do music and let's see what comes out of it." I didn't have any preconceptions of having to do a certain track, just to be open-minded to my own creations and [after] five or six tracks I saw a direction and Boundary was the result of that. It was quite different from what I did a few years ago [laughs] so I felt like I needed a new name for this project. I still love doing dancehall and soca and all kinds of dance floor music but I felt like my brain needed a balance and Boundary is my balance.
What were your main influences when making this album?
It was deeply rooted in one of my first loves in electronic music and I'm talking about the '90s of Warp Records, when Intelligent Dance Music
(IDM) was in full effect with Autechre and Aphex Twin, which was a huge influence for me. While a lot of acts on Warp Records were very intellectual, geeky and abstract, I felt like I could bring something a bit more, perhaps "human" to that sound that I love. Yeah, it's rooted in repetition and texture but it's not necessarily about the latest software or the latest plugin. It's definitely not an album about virtuosity, it's an album for listening. It's music, not about keyboard solos. If it's working, it's working. Some songs are very simple but they have this vibe that I don't want to break. Like the track "Long Story Short" is more than eight minutes, which is quite unusual for me and what's even more surprising for me is that the rhythm doesn't change at all for eight minutes.
A couple of years back we saw the evolution of bass and other electronic forms incorporating a lot of house tropes but now techno is very much to the fore.
Yeah, for sure. Going back to texture in repetitive music, that was one of my first loves and maybe we've been overdosed with riff-based music and sometimes you just wanna hear a good 909 or a good 808, well treated and well looped. I was recently listening to the old Plastikman albums — I love those! And it's super-simple and so clever in its subtleties and I was thinking maybe we have too much obvious in-your-face music and we need a balance, to go back to the roots.
Do you think the experience of recording the Boundary album feeds back into your music as Poirier, even if just in terms of taking a break and feeling refreshed?
I feel super free now to do whatever I want because I have two different outlets and I don't need to restrict myself. If in a month I feel like doing deeper stuff that is more for home listening then obviously that's gonna be my Boundary stuff. While I was doing Boundary I did an EP as Poirier because I was trying to find some ideas for some beats as Boundary and I came across a super-hip-hop rhythm so I took a break for two weeks to finish the riddim and record some versions. So I did a Poirier project while I was doing Boundary. It's more about riding the flow. Maybe I felt a little bit trapped in the last five years of doing mostly one style or one direction.
I noticed that Boundary is on the billing at this year's MUTEK festival!
Yeah, MUTEK will be the premiere of the live show. Boundary's only for live shows, almost never as a DJ, and I'm gonna have a drummer. The same drummer, Chris Olsen, who plays on the album — we did two of the tracks together and he did some sound design on some of the tracks, so he's a close collaborator. We've done shows together before so it's just natural to have him on stage with me. In 2013 we'll do a few festivals and in 2014 I want to bring some visual elements into it, with projections, a more audio-visual performance.
Last year you were speaking on a panel at MUTEK about the state of the electronic scene in Canada. How do you feel it's progressed over the past year?
The main obstacle is geographic — Canada is so large that it costs a lot of money to go from one side to the other, but I do believe that there's still a closer connection between Canadian artists compared to say, Canadian vs. American artists. I think we still need to put more of a spotlight on it. There are a lot of Canadian artists that sometimes people don't really know are Canadian, for example not everyone knows that A-Trak is from Montreal or that Caribou is also Canadian. It's a question of not being shy anymore of where you're coming from — it doesn't matter whether you come from a village or a big city. Whether the music is made in Saskatchewan, Halifax or Montreal you're judged on the results, not whether you're from a big city.
What else do you think is a factor, aside from the geographic restraints?
Well, we don't have a star system for musicians; commercial radio won't really play music that is underground, compared to England, which has the BBC at the top of the pyramid to spread music all across England and all across the world. We don't really have anything equivalent here in Canada. There's not like a critical mass of media. It's a complex question but I've been following electronic music here since the early '90s and we've been progressing, definitely.