The Sounds Themselves: Borusiade Interviewed

As Romanian producer Borusiade prepares to release her debut album this Friday via Cómeme, Mollie Zhang catches up with her to discuss early cinema, the importance of limitations and her entry into DJing

Photo courtesy of Dan Beleiu

I speak to Miruna Boruzescu, aka Borusiade, soon after her first set at Berghain for Berlin’s CTM festival. The set feels languid and dreamy; this is apt, given that she hosts a show for Radio Cómeme, the radio offshoot of the label which will release her debut album, called ‘The Dreamcatcher’. She moves fluidly across moods – from shades of melancholy through to moments of euphoria. She tells me that the set was built "from zero", and looks slightly bemused when I say I’d enjoyed it.

"It’s funny, [CTM co-curator] Michail Stangl came to me after and said, ‘your set literally gave me anxiety!’ [Laughs] Is that a good thing? He said, ‘It’s obvious that you represent a generation that knows it’s doomed.’ I wasn’t sure at first if that was ironic, but he really meant it and I think it’s a good thing. We may not necessarily be shiny, happy people, and that’s okay."

The way her organic, elegant style has developed is audible on A Body, Borusiade’s debut album for Cómeme. Following releases on Correspondant, Cititrax and Cómeme itself, A Body is coloured by moments of anxiety, as well as by tracks that are light and delicate. Her shadowy percussion arrangements and caramel synth work are transported across delays to create a beautiful, analgesic record.

We meet up for coffee, and she apologises (needlessly) for her state, admitting that she is still recovering from the previous night. Our conversation touches on her other artistic interests, music in her native city Bucharest, and being a ‘clean geek’ of sorts.

What was the making of A Body like? Did you set out with a specific idea in mind?

Miruna Boruzescu: It’s just music I was making for over a year and a half or so. Basically, two years ago I had a residency in Marseille, during which I started working on some tracks – that’s when I started working on this material. [Cómeme boss] Matias Aguayo asked me to send something over, so I sent him the whole batch and he liked everything I sent, which was amazing. I did end up fine-tuning some structures and I also added a track and took another out, then worked on certain parts again. The base of it is the original batch of tracks that I sent to him though.

Was it difficult to decide what would be on there?

MB: No, but at the beginning, I was a bit worried about the fact that I didn’t really approach it or think about it ‘conceptually’ as an album – but then I realised that I never would. I just don’t see myself thinking that way. Beyond the fact that I made these tracks during the same period of time, and that being why they work well together, there isn’t anything else I would do. In the end, I actually think they work really well together and that they do feel quite homogenous.

I don’t know how other artists work, but I think that no matter what you do, your own sound will emerge; I couldn’t make something that doesn’t sound like me. My way of working means that in my head, things need to have an integrity, or a sense of belonging to one another – whether that’s in a DJ set or a record doesn’t matter. I think tracks should fit together, or that a story must be told. It’s not just about whether or not they fit together in one BPM.

I definitely get a sense of that from your radio show Dreamcatcher. How do you normally put that together? Is it instinctive, or do you really sit down and think about it?

MB: It’s kind of like like knitting a sock [Laughs]. I’ll start with a track and think about what will fit into this atmosphere or dream – what has a similar tension – and somehow, one track will lead to another. In my head, they need to flow. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t, but the point for me is to build some kind of story or vibe. I don’t want the hour to feel like each track offers a different story.

Is this approach similar to how you write? Are you focused on the idea of conveying an overall mood or vibe?

MB: When I produce, I don’t really think about the outcome, or at least I prefer not to. I just start exploring a sound and see where it leads me. Of course you make decisions in that process, but it’s not like I sit down and think, ‘oh, I want to make a track that sounds like this.’ Even if I tried, it wouldn’t work.

I mean the first tracks that I did for my first EP [2016’s Cómeme-released Jeopardy] were very organic. They were like slow, atmospheric dark disco tracks – I don’t really know how you’d label them. I think my last single was very techno/EBM-based, but now the album is something else. I can’t really stick to one genre; that’s very hard for me and I don’t think I want to either.

Has your approach to writing changed much as you’ve developed as an artist? Is there an idea of where you want it to go?

MB: I guess it changes like the weather. Of course I hope I evolve in a way, but I don’t really think it’s up to me to decide if it changes or doesn’t. Listeners will hear if it changes in one way or another, it doesn’t evolve through concrete decisions. I let things flow.

I mean, don’t get the idea that I’m making music blindfolded, or with earplugs in! It’s just more about vibes. I play around with musical phrases and have to see where that leads me. It’s like I have a collaboration with music. I make it but I also want to see where it brings me and how things shift and develop. I try different options and will see what I like most – it’s like working with a spirit. I don’t believe that what I do is what I really do, I feel like artists are channels that communicate things. They make decisions in that process, though.

Do you mean that in a sense that you’re responding to what other people are making?

MB: We’re not going to have a philosophical/mystical discussion, are we? [Laughs] I do think we’re all vessels that just gather together information, without even knowing – say, the things you’ve seen or the people you’ve met. In the end, you make your own decisions, and your imagination or inspiration somehow emerges. But that’s made by the life you live, the people that surround you and the experiences that you’ve had. I think it’s a constant flow of things, and that’s the beauty of it. Nobody should take this idea of absolute authorship over what they’re doing; where you are and who you’ve met all has a massive impact on it.

Has relocating to Berlin had a large impact on what you do?

MB: I guess, if anything it felt more like Berlin gave me more room and peace of mind. Bucharest, my other hometown – I guess I have two now – is completely hectic, crazy, hysteric. There’s a very different energy. Here, people are more chilled out – there’s more space, wider sidewalks, and people ride bikes. In Bucharest, you get stuck in traffic jams and crammed in small sidewalks, but of course I still love that place.

Back in Bucharest, how did you first get into dance music?

MB: The first time I touched CDJs was when I was 19, I was just really curious. I’d always been interested in music and I grew up with a big collection of records from my father, and I also always listened to the radio. I just discovered a different way to share music with other people, and that was through DJing.

There was this club in Bucharest that closed a few years later called the Web Club. The people who went there were mostly friends, and I also knew the DJs, so once I went to one of the residents and asked about playing. I think I was one of the first girls who showed interest in it back then, and he was like ‘yeah sure, I have this date, do you want to play?’ I said yes. I prepared all my CDs, I wrote all of these labels on them – it was fun. I didn’t know how to beatmatch or anything, but it didn’t even matter, and I had a lot of fun doing it. I guess the rest is history; I don’t even remember anymore what the next steps were like. I just kept moving in that direction, somehow. DJing was something that just gradually came to be more and more present in my life, and I eventually started getting invited to play in other places. I still never thought that I would do this ‘professionally.’

You don’t go clubbing so much –

MB: I do, but I go to ‘work.’ I definitely used to go out a lot more, but when I started to do this professionally, that changed. You go out so much anyway, you play in clubs a lot and you’re always in this environment, so when you have a free weekend, you just want to stay home. I still go out but to see more specific/selected things. I’ve started to know the clubbing world quite well and I know what I can expect. I don’t really consume alcohol or other substances, not that it matters, but it’s hard to party more this way.

Yeah, I guess it’s a very social thing.

MB: I’m a clean geek [Laughs] if you want, I know that’s an exception in this world. I’m not trying to make any kind of statement with it, though. It’s just the way I live.

Have you found that difficult to maintain?

MB: I still get my kicks, if you like, from what I’m doing. I personally prefer to play a great set and have an amazing reaction from the people and really be there, but again this is me and I’m not in any way judging those who want to do anything differently.

And do you miss singing in a choir, having now moved into the ‘club’ world?

MB: I don’t miss that time of my life or anything, I was singing in a choir between 6 and 18 years. It was definitely a great time, and it was definitely formative for me as a musician. Of course I still have that education. Now in my music, anywhere you hear a voice, it’s my voice.

You were also studying film back then, right? Is that something you miss at all?

MB: Right now, no. I always liked doing many artistic things, and had a hard time deciding what I would study when I finished school. I was oscillating between going to a music conservatory, art school and film school, so I thought that film might be able to encompass all of these interests, as it’s an art that uses all of them. I ended up studying film direction, but music somehow ended up taking over. It was always a passion. So now I’m making music, but who knows, maybe in five years I’ll return to film. I don’t feel like I miss it, because if I’m not working on a film, I’m thinking of it through music.

Can you tell me about the images that accompany your work? From the album artwork to the Dreamcatcher image.

MB: The Dreamcatcher image is from Dziga Vertov, a Russian film pioneer. They decided at Radio Cómeme that we’d have to choose one image to represent our show, to avoid people getting confused. Before that, I had been using a series of expressionist images from movies. That first season was nice before because I could show the vibe of the show in an image I chose myself. I chose this one because I thought that it could end up covering it all, in a way.

Are you still happy with the choice?

MB: Yeah, I love early cinema. I feel like I always identified aesthetically with this dramatic, black and white style that’s suspenseful, creepy and weird.

What was it about earlier cinema that you were attracted to?

MB: I guess it was the technological limitations, or their lack of options. I feel like when you have less technological possibilities, you have more space for creativity. You’re forced to innovate more and come up with more ideas to achieve what you want to achieve, when you’re limited to what you have. This is also how I work in music. I don’t want to have a billion instruments – maybe I would want more if I had the money to buy them all, but I’m happy with just a few. I like to push them and myself to our limits.

Now, the way we consume is so different – I feel like people want to own or have access to as much as possible. Of course, when it comes to music, there’s lots of gear fetishism, too. Is there much that’s being produced now that excites you?

MB: I mean, of course I’m a person of my time, what can I do? We do have so many options nowadays, it would be interesting to limit the plethora of applications and technologies we have access to and see what people come up with – make them think a bit more, make them imagine a bit more. When you have all of this in front of you, there’s no space for this kind of mind play.

I recently went to some of the CTM festival concerts – I really enjoyed the Holly Herndon Ensemble. The way they mixed organic voices with the digital was really impressive, and I was really touched by it.

Does this idea of working within limitations shape how you work, too? Say, limiting yourself to certain hardware?

MB: I mean, I’m not trying to do this, exactly, but with my first EP I produced with just one synth and, of course, Ableton Live. I didn’t have the budget to buy more gear, I wasn’t going to sell my shoes or anything like that. I had this one synth, and so I decided that I would sit down and play with that. I eventually added another to my collection, and a sampler too. I don’t have a house full of gear. Rather than being so interested in making the sounds, I’m more interested in the sounds themselves.

A Body is out March 9 via Cómeme. Another new track from the producer, entitled ‘Night Dive’, will feature on Lena Willikens’ upcoming Dekmantel Selectors compilation which is set for release on April 16

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