Borealis – Voidness (2012)

The first album under Jesse Somfay’s new moniker Borealis (one of four), Voidness.

I love the work that Somfay produced under his own name; an eclectic fusion of albums and EP’s devoted to a really cerebral future techo sound, music that was really intimate and emotional and rooted in good electronic music principles. These new four aliases Somfay has made are each going to go in separate directions away from his original sounds, exploring other genres for different purposes (like recreating that classic and now-since-lost 90’s trance sound). Voidness, the first of these releases, is a direct attack on popular EDM music, blending an exotic fusion of genre styles together, blurring boundaries for the purpose of highlighting how caught up we are on identity.

That’s the premise anyway, an album that seeks to give the finger to the soulless, emotionless, empty (void) that is EDM at the moment. Does it achieve that though is the question.

I agree wholeheartedly with the reasoning behind this release, but I am not enjoying how it presents itself. The sound of this album is unique, I’ll give it that; I’m not the best at categorising electronic sub-genres (it’s a tricky and inflammatory business, and this is deliberately obtuse), but you should expect IDM, dubstep (the Burial kind) and minimal techno, although since labelling is against the principles of this album, forget what I just wrote. There’s a huge number of overlapping beat elements, some of them driving the tracks forward and underpinning everything, others circling and adding their textural overprint, but nothing complex, just simple and relaxed beats. There’s a lo-fi fuzz to many of the sequences that is a big throwback from Somfay’s earlier albums, but due to the precision and quality of many of the other electronic structures it feels a bit redundant.

The atmospheres here, while perhaps darker and more downtrodden than much of his earlier work, are definitely more open and less claustrophobic/oppressive. It seems to be very nostalgia seeped, drawing up many of the ambient textures he began to use later in his career (especially on A Catch In The Voice). Disjointed, distal samples from TV and radio work their way in, along with the classic helium-treated dubstep vocals (the “Womb” + “Not Of This Reality” doublet) a la Burial.

The problem with this release is that it takes all of techno’s worst facets and combines them with, to put it bluntly, a tonne of unnecessary electronic fuckery that makes this 75 minute release rather tiresome listening. Most of the tracks are rather forgettable and uninspiring, and the few that are (eg. “Womb”, “Nightingale”, “Nightfall”) are the few tracks that actually feel uplifting and don’t stick to the boring, monochromatic sound style that makes this album drag on and on.

This album puts itself in a deadzone, an electronic limbo trapped between genres, to highlight our dependence on labels and our obsession with hooks and drops, such that popular EDM has now become. In many ways it has achieved this goal, but in doing so Somfay has created a cumbersome and exhausting album that is surprisingly emotionally deficient and, while sounding unique, still wallows in lots of dubstep inspired sound. Teetering on the precipice of being great; so sad I got hyped for this for so long.