Borealis (ROU)
Voidness


3.5
great

Review

by Jonny Hunter CONTRIBUTOR (100 Reviews)
July 17th, 2012 | 26 replies | 1,551 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Painstakingly close

If I were to jump off this review and leave you lying there, frustrated and unsatisfied, with only a single word of description, I’d describe Voidness as ‘murky.’ Murky in the sense that everything seems submerged beneath this swirling residue of crackles and ambience; nothing clear except the slow thump of bass. Now it would be tempting, based on the short description you’ve just read, to dismiss Borealis’ debut LP under this new alias as borrowing just a little too much content from Burial. Indeed, a lot of what we now attribute to the work of this decade’s Dubstep superhero is in play here: from the minimalistic structure to sporadic use of pitched-up vocal samples. Both in mood and direction, however, Voidness is very much its own beast. It’s an album that, despite introducing itself as quite downbeat - drawing from the ever popular melancholic, urban feeling - emerges as rather hopeful.

Considering the label’s description that accompanied the release of the album, I guess we should be thankful for this. Amidst lines such as “an infinite void where we find total freedom and where we find room to dream the waking dream” we’re given the sense that Voidness is in part about looking towards the future. Borealis has given himself 19 tracks to explore this, and as such we see a healthy mix of ambience between his more urban sentiments. Not padding, per se, because the more ambient-based sections are where Voidness truly shines, but necessary time for reflection in an album claiming to deal with such heavy ideas.

Unsurprisingly, given the title of the album, Borealis works to make his compositions stretch into as much space as possible. The ever present hum of bass, strings or acapella vocals offers a base from which percussion, keyboard and vocal samples can launch, reverberate or sink into. At its worst, Voidness relegates itself to (albeit rather good) background noise as thumping percussion rattles in the background and keyboard notes echo outdated organ synths without really choosing to progress to any meaningful point. Tracks like “Orphan Fire” are most guilty of this: holding itself in a perpetual state of about-to-go-somewhere without ever really doing so. In fact, the entire first segment of the album is somewhat plagued by it, with tracks thundering in with a relatively aggressive manner only to lack the oomph to really carry it off. Often going for an ‘abandoned fairground’ vibe in a move that, while interesting, doesn’t really connect with the rest of the album. At its best, however, Voidness is incredibly successful. The album mellows out around “Not of This Reality”, and from therein we start to see a much more confident and partially experimental attitude. “Wearied, We Keep Awake” is an absolutely fantastic maelstrom of bass, tribalistic vocal hums and synths as they all tumble over each other, struggling for centre stage. Little skips and cuts within each instrument make this not so much a swirl of liquid but one with disjointed lumps of ice constantly crashing and grating into each other; partially reminiscent of mid-00’s Tim Hecker were it not for the military-parade-like force of the percussion. Most surprisingly, the result of all this perceived chaos is a strong, uplifting sense of bliss. The sign of a track that more than lives up to Borealis’ grandeus mission statement.

“Wearied, We Keep Awake” marks a turning point for Voidness, as the handful of tracks proceeding it are very good indeed. Other highlights include “Nightfall,” which sees the percussion scale back to beats in the ambience in order to give room for a slow, powerful built to crescendo. It’s deceptively simple, as what first appears like a standard progression of chords reveals itself to be a densely layered sea of sound of the likes of Listening Mirror and Shrine that we rarely see outside of pure Ambient. A great deal of care has been taken with the contours and texture of the piece, which in English means that it sounds pretty special on decent headphones.

In between these two aforementioned segments of the album, we see Borealis playing it a little safe as the Burial influences really start to show though. With looser, more laid back percussion, pumps of bass and a higher concentration of vocal samples, the tracks “Black Drop” and “Not of the Reality” echo sections of “Ashtray Wasp” and other, more recent Burial releases. This isn’t to discredit the middle of Voidness as it’s certainly enjoyable, but the resemblance is just a little bit too noticeable. Considering, too, that Borealis is based under the same collective as Volor Flex and the like, it seems that we’re seeing just a little too much of this style of music as of late. It also feels just a little bit out of place in an album that is otherwise very successful at defining its own sound.

I guess the inconsistency in the tone of the album was always expected when we consider the sheer amount of music it contains. Likewise, since Borealis was so intent on going for such an ambitious sentiment the chances of him pulling it off without a fault were one in a million. In the end, we’re left with an album with three distinct parts which dramatically improves as it progresses. As a whole it shows the potential to act as a singular movement, but in the end the changes that occur are too discreet for the parts to seamlessly blend together. Despite this, the album is still of remarkable quality, and the highlights may rank amongst some of the best electronic tracks of the year. It’s just a shame that the few flaws Voidness possesses hold it back from truly becoming the life changing album Borealis wanted it to be.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
July 17th 2012



2675 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Enjoy the essay :/

Initially posted here: http://www.muzikdizcovery.com/2012/07/album-review-borealis-voidness.html

Available for free: http://store.origamisound.com/album/voidness

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
July 17th 2012



4087 Comments


[Electronic]

Digging: Oberman Knocks - Dilankex

mindleviticus
July 17th 2012



7936 Comments


Awesome review, mate. I personally love this so far. I also liked Lost in Taiga a lot. Probably only
thing I don't like about it is the fucking length.

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
July 17th 2012



2675 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Soon to be changed to (ROU) when the edit goes through as I found confirmation that she's actually Romanian.

And thank you. This kind of 1000 word-long reviewing wankery is weird for me.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2012



30291 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

Haven't read this yet, but reviews should never begin with "I"

Digging: L'Orange - The Orchid Days

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
July 17th 2012



2675 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

But it begins with "If" ):

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2012



30291 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

If duh!

But you know what I mean

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2012



30291 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

Can people stop associating a minimal approach and pitch-shifted vocals with Burial please?? He didn't create that "idea" (approach?) nor is this even a similar sound where a comparison would be necessary

mindleviticus
July 17th 2012



7936 Comments


Bearial so totalli did dev... and so did squirrellex

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



2675 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I never said he started it, I just said people now attribute him as the influence if those things crop up. And I do only narrow down that comparison to a couple of tracks where it's really quite obvious (though somewhat lazy from a reviewing standpoint)

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 18th 2012



30291 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

No, you open your review by claiming that he borrows a little too much content from Burial. That's not really narrowing it down at all. And who attributes Burial as the influence to all electronic music post-2005? I say that because there's nothing here that remotely resembles his music, and it's not like Burial could ever (even loosely) be defined as "minimal". There's far too much going on in his music, far too much emotional clutter, for that to ever be a trusim

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



2675 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Maybe mentioning it so early on was a mistake...

I think, given the review as a whole, that I do a reasonably clear job of downplaying the extent of the influences. It is there, though, but in a couple of tracks (the review mentions "Not of this Reality" and "Black Drop")

It's 10am Dev, I don't want to argue.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 18th 2012



30291 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

Yes, but my question is how does "minimalness" and pitch-shifted vocals immediately make someone defer to Burial?

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



48522 Comments


yeah

Digging: More Than Life - What's Left Of Me

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



2675 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh there's a question, right.

Because they do. I don't know, I suppose it's different for you as someone who's followed the genre for possibly about 5+ more years than I have, but for those of us (i.e. me) without an archive of influences etc. it's very easy to draw the line to the guy that a) everyone talks about and b) everyone's listened to.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 18th 2012



30291 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

Yes, but when did relevance ever ensure accuracy? If you wanna namedrop for the simple act of namedropping then okay, but there should be a reason behind it beyond the simple "hey, you've heard of this guy"

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



2675 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

There was a reason behind it, because (rep. rep. rep.) of those tracks I mentioned, from which drawing the link is possible.

As I said, perhaps it was a mistake to mention it so early. I must have been listening to one of them as I did the first para.



Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 18th 2012



30291 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

A link or a line? Because there's really nothing here that even sits at a distance from Bevan, unless vocals and a minimal frame of noise is some kind of nominal event (and one that Burial is a part of)

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



2675 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

How much of a different is that one letter going to make? I'll go with e. It's my lucky letter.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 18th 2012



30291 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

Well a link would imply a connection, a line is simply the same as me tracing every facet of modern electronic music back to Kraftwerk. I just don't see how everyone immediately defers to Burial, when the music painfully fails to resemble his at all. It's not a case of one person knowing more than the other (which you were leaning towards a few posts up) but simply a case of having ears



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