Northwest American producer Borealism (who spends time in Portland, OR and Sandpoint, ID) has been soundtracking a great deal of my 2017. With a series of loose instrumentals scattered throughout SoundCloud, the ambient compositions are equal parts relaxing and adventurous. Like meditating on an airplane before skydiving into the sea. To further compliment this year's singles, Borealism has now released the album Ripples in the Stream, a full-length via Inner Ocean Records. While it's available digitally, it can also be purchased on cassette and vinyl. In honor of the release, I spoke with Borealism about the album, the creative process, and plenty of powerful advice.
How long have you been working on Ripples in the Stream?
It began about a year ago. I really started to make some breakthroughs last summer that led me to ideas that would later become part of the album. It was also then I began thinking seriously about what my next release would become.
In the between time, you released a heap of loose tracks. Did you see those singles as being separate from the style of your album?
The period of time from the fall of last year through the spring/early summer of this year was a very productive one for me. Most of the tracks on the album were completed before February but had to be patient while it was being mastered and we figured out what time of the year would be good to release it. I knew I really liked the way the tracks in RITS flowed and didn't want to change it. I'm always learning and wanting to try out new ideas so it was only natural to spend my time continuing to grow and perfect my craft as I waited to show this release to the world. In a way, I feel like every track is different from each other because I always learn something new with every track.
All of the past singles featured art from Moebius, but what can you tell me about the art for Ripples in the Stream? It seems to contain similar fantastical elements.
So the art was made by my friend Barney Dwyer who also appears on the album as a collaborator on the track called "Subshield". I've been a fan of his visual work for a while and I had confidence in him to make something great. I didn't give him many instructions or ideas because I wanted his art to be reflection of the impression he got from the album. I couldn't be more pleased with the result; it speaks to the ethereal and mystical, dream-like places the album explores.
From ambient to lofi to acoustic guitar, can you speak on your evolving and freeforming sound over the years?
It's been a long road from 2011 when I first started producing and uploading chiptune music onto SoundCloud. Though my musical taste has evolved vastly over the 6 years I've been producing, the drive to improve my skills has only grown stronger with time. The more I learn, the more I see is possible, and the more I believe I can attain the mastery I seek. My greatest accomplishment for me over that time has been integrating my instrumental abilities with guitar, piano, and vocals into my production. When I got into making lo-fi instrumentals, I originally relied heavily on samples in my compositions and when I started being able to stand on my own I felt more free with my vision of what I could do.
You keep it short and sweet with eleven tracks for your album. Did you know all along you wanted it around that length, or did you cut a bunch of original drafts?
I wasn't really paying attention to a particular amount of tracks on the release, but I knew i wanted it to be around 30 minutes in length. It just so happened the batch of tracks I ended up selecting fulfilled the length I wished for and also had a cohesive arc between them. I think 30 minutes is a great runtime for a record; long enough to take the listener on a journey; and short enough to for into the daily routine.
What influenced/inspired you during the making of this project?
The months over which I made this album was a very bittersweet time in my life. My grandfather passed on November 3rd of last year and I had moved to Portland, Oregon to help take care of him in hospice. The beginning of the album is very dark and turbulent, reflecting much of what I felt after my intimate experience with the dying process. However, out of such experiences a peculiar appreciate of life can arise. Bearing witness to death gave me gratitude for life. So in effect, I wanted the album to take an upward swing from the first half to provide resolution.
Do you have anything planned for the remainder of the year?
I'm not really sure what the rest of the year will bring! I'll likely be working through the winter, or I might go to Norway for a few months and work with my father. No matter what happens, I'll be making music all along the way.
Do you have any final thoughts / words of wisdom? Any additional bits of info I didn't mention?
I want to say a big thank you and shout out firstly to Sam Johnson aka Brother Mynor for the job he did with mastering this record for me. He spent a very long time to make sure everything sounded as clean as possible and I felt very assured of the album's quality with him on the job. Secondly I want to thank Cory Giordano, founder of Inner Ocean Records, for making this vision come to reality. There were times when we both thought a vinyl release wasn't going to be possible but he worked hard on my behalf to make sure this album got the release he thought it deserves. I'm very grateful to have people like these two in my corner - couldn't have done it without them. Lastly, I just want to tell everyone that anything is possible if you try for it. It's a phrase that we hear all the time and often feels cliche, yet it is 100% true. We are the result of what we put into motion with our actions and thoughts, so make sure you tell yourself you can accomplish your goals and remain positive if it is taking time to get there.