Joris Voorn: More than the sum of its parts

View the Original Article

From the opening ambient echoes of Joris Voorn’s acclaimed entry into the Balanceseries, you know you’re in for something special. “Are you ready?” a muttered vocal grab asks, and after being steered through 15 minutes of deep build, the club beats eventually kick in proper and we’re taken through a grippingly diverse selection of sounds.

However, we’re spared of any jarring ‘eclectic’ genre-hopping, in exchange for of a smooth flowing experience that’s assembled from many different parts – more than 100 across both discs in fact, which have been cut, spliced, overlapped and interwoven. Elaborately stitched together in the studio by Joris over four months, it’s a mix that diverts as far from the standard approach of a mix compilation that you can get.

Balance 014 breaks down the notion of a single track being mixed into the next, to the point where both two mixes each become like a single 80-minute composition. There are plenty of memorable moments – the melancholic guitar breakdown towards the end the first disc for instance, the desperate exhales that accompany it, and the haunting “dream on dreamer” monologue, which are all spectacular enough to join your most heightened collection of dance music memories. But it’s so intricately woven together that there are no seams, and what could have been a muddled mess instead becomes one of the most cohesive mix compilations we’ve ever listened to. Far more than the sum of its many different parts, Balance 014 was good enough to take home the top accolade in ITM’s Best Releases of 2009.

Described by Joris as “painting with sound” upon its release at the beginning of 2009, it was a mix that defined the year of a DJ/producer who became one of underground dance music’s most successful breakthrough artists during that time. “The Balance mix was received really well, for many reasons I think,” Joris told ITM in February, more than a year after the compilation’s initial release. “I really did try and do something special, both for myself and for the listening audience. I’m really happy that people got the message, and really did appreciate all the effort I put into it.”

Looking back, does he feel it really captured what he tries to do as an artist? “I think so,” he says. “I was very happy to be given the opportunity. It gives the artist the chance to do something out of the ordinary, and if you take that chance then you can really do something with it. If that’s what you want to do, of course; if you want to be just a straightforward DJ, and that’s how you want to present yourself, you can do that as well. However, I like to show that I’m interested in the whole spectrum of music, and not just the peaktime house tracks.”

Speaking to ITM as he gears up to return to Australia as part of the inauguralCreamfields tour, Joris exudes the polite and warm manner of your typical Dutchman: well spoken, friendly and with plenty of insightful things to say. He says he’s still basking in the light of what he managed to achieve in 2009. “It’s been an amazing year. I couldn’t have hoped for a better year, I don’t think.” Ironically though, all the groundwork for what he achieved was laid back in late 2008. “That was when I made a lot of the tracks that I released on my Rejected label, and the Balance CD of course, so basically the whole year was in the light of those releases. The thing is, you’re always kind of always at least half a year ahead of what’s going to happen, sometimes more. Similarly, the work done in 2009 will see release in 2010.”

With the internet and digital distribution breaking down all sorts of musical barriers, the pool of electronic music talent across the world is now wider than it’s ever been before, so to stand out is an even bigger achievement. To do so, you’ve really got to bring something unique to the table; for Joris Voorn, he’s managed to push out against the barriers of sound with both his productions and elaborate DJ mixes, exploring new possibilities while keeping things accessible. Listen to that sublime synth hook in his mix of last year’s Beach Kisses. What the hell is it anyway? Is it a finely crafted digital creation, or is it some kind of organic saxophone or clarinet that’s been fed through an elaborate digital filter? Who knows. There’s a sense of mystery to the sounds he’s creating, a textured depth and fullness, and the sense he’s twisting it into something we haven’t heard before.

Playing live, Joris says he’s looking to replicate this expansive approach to sound. “I play with Traktor, and I’m often playing three or four tracks at the same time, or maybe even just sounds and samples opposed to full tracks. There could be elements of one, elements from another one and adding some sounds or a ccapellas on top. So it really is an organic mix of things that you’re hearing, and even if you listen back it can be really difficult to hear it in there, because it really is a combination of many different things.”

Among the great revival of the classic house sound that we heard last year, Joris had his own unique part to play in the form of his two-part Dusty House series of EPs, a concept project of sorts. Dancefloor ready tracks like We’re All Clean and Sweep The Floor showed him building from a fairly typical house music structure, before spinning it out into something that’s altogether different and original, and markedly more futuristic.

“I basically started working on them when I finished my Balance release,” Joris says. “I felt such a sense of relief that it was finally finished. It was quite a tough project, long and very intense. So then I just felt like doing something easy, something for the dancefloor. So that was how I came up with making some really housey tracks. I didn’t necessarily try and do something new and edgy; but on the other hand, I did try for something contemporary, or something I really liked myself. I’m really happy that people picked them up and enjoyed them; it was probably just the right thing at the right moment.”

In seeking to bring so many different elements together, something else that stands out with Joris Voorn is the sense of the ‘organic’. Rather than playing one track sequentially after the other, or similarly, going for the predictable approach as a producer, his sounds combine to form something that’s again more than the sum of its parts; often it’s like they’re alive and breathing. It’s this sense of the ‘organic’ that Joris says he’s looking to push further in 2010; in this case literally, by using organic instruments.

“That’s definitely something that I’m looking for at the moment,” he says. “I’ve been into electronic music for around fifteen years, and I’ve been going through all the stages of making different music with different machines, from the very digital to very analogue. At the moment, I’m very interested in the warm sounds, something a little bit more real and a little bit less electronic. Still, the concept is kind of techno and house based, but with more organic elements. Things that could be real instruments. I don’t really mean ‘ethnic house’ – but more maybe using my own shakers and high hats, rather than something created by a computer. For me this is a way of bringing life back into electronic music.”

Joris Voorn plays Creamfields around the country this month.