11th November 2022
CD, vinyl, download & streaming
Pain Goes Away
“It’s the sound of me grappling with transformation,” says Nicolas Bougaïeff of his latest album Begin Within.
The Berlin-based, Canadian artist’s last album Begin Within embodies huge musical and personal evolution, with Bougaïeff plunging deep to explore parts of himself, and his craft, that he has never before. The album title itself speaks volumes of this journey. “If you want to transform the world you have to start by transforming yourself,” he says.
Recent time spent on reflection and introspection quickly began to manifest in his work. “I paused what I was doing and re-examined what it all meant,” he says. “I took the occasion to do introspective work and it really helped me sort out issues I was grappling with personally. Both these parts of my life kept on being intertwined but rather than being intertwined in a mass ball of confusion and chaos, it got intertwined in a slow, isolated, self reflective, meditative process.”
While The Upward Spiral, his 2020 debut for Mute, explored the kind of thumping industrial techno that could be heard in the clubs he was regularly frequenting, on Begin Within he’s opened up entirely new sonic terrain, including the use and experimentation of his voice as an instrument.
The role of voice is a key one to the album in a dual capacity. Not only does it add a new dimension and dynamic to the shape, tone and groove of the record but it’s also symbolic of Bougaïeff quite literally finding his own. “There’s a few major themes with this album and honesty is one of them,” he says. “I went through years of physical and emotional masochism as a kind of immersive shock therapy to jolt me into understanding something. I was putting myself in evermore abrasive positions, physically and emotionally, to promote myself into feeling something or figuring something out. But I never knew what, it was just a very foggy instinct. I was creating scenarios that eventually got out of my control.”
He continues: “I lost myself to a degree and Begin Within was the beginning of a process of mental reconciliation and internal unity manifested in my art. I was looking for expansion and honesty, for an ability to recognise, respect and articulate my emotions and put them into words. Speaking on this level is not something I was able to do before. I felt like I was missing a basic human capacity. So I was looking to engage with others and myself on this level and vanquish detachment. That was already hard enough to start doing in real life so it was a real challenge to do that in my music with lyrics and words. Getting into songwriting was a real stretch.”
The vocal element also allowed him to explore personal stories and narratives that he had previously been unable to. “Another major theme is ‘intimate Berlin stories’,” he says. “It’s about several breakups, some recent, some not so. I opened myself up emotionally and I learned to speak about my emotions. It may sound strange but this was just something that I didn’t do.” Perhaps these intimate Berlin stories are most perfectly captured in the poignancy of tracks like ‘Pain Goes Away’, which uses field recordings from nights out -including locations such as the Berghain bathroom – that merge with a groggy and murky beat to recreate such crepuscular adventures.
Bougaïeff’s voice features on every track. Sometimes it’s distorted and treated as it coalesces into fractured beats, while at other times it’s more obvious and clear – as on tracks such as ‘Naked Eye’, which fuses a mangled, and almost hip-hop-like beat, with a seamless vocal melody. Musically the album is an eclectic one, veering from glitchy IDM to immersive ambient, and from experimental pop to jagged electronica. The sound of transformation, both musical and personal, is something that is inescapable. The opening ‘Every Day’ being a bold statement of a new artist at work trying to reach new levels. “‘Every Day’ is a stream of consciousness edit,” he says. “Every previous step was deleted. There are no previous versions, so the only version of the track that exists is the one that’s released.”
For the first time in his life Bougaïeff – a hugely experienced composer who has studied electroacoustic composition and has a doctorate on minimal techno – decided to put his least experienced skills to the forefront of this project. “I’m not a writer, that’s not my thing,” he says. “I put the part of the art that was my weakest point, the most foreign, first. So that was the first big way to force me to focus on the emotional aspect rather than on technique. When I got to the nitty gritty and I had to call upon my production composer skills to pull it all together, I did my best to put my bag of techniques at the service of the emotions, it was a supporting skill.”
However, despite being an album rooted in emotion, personal transformation and communicating new feelings that goes to a place that transcends just music, it’s still an incredibly smartly crafted piece of work. “On ‘Begin Within’, the beginning is in the middle, and the music radiates out from there, so if you listen to the title track in forward and reverse it’s the exact same thing. Inner Pattern is a polytemporal locked groove in the first half, which unfolds in the second half.”
The process of making the album is one that has gone beyond simply a creative process and instead has been inescapably intertwined with a profound period of personal change on a life-changing level. “The experience was transformative and mind-bending,” Bougaïeff says. “It was like there’s an entire dimension of the human experience that was closed off to me that I didn’t even know existed.”
Full Track Streaming:
Videos directed by Paul Bröse; Video 3 by Paul Brös & Christian Pomerleau
Nicolas Bougaïeff’s “Deckalog” on Denkfabrik
Nicolas Bougaïeff’s “Resilience Interlude” on Denkfabrik
Nicolas Bougaïeff’s “Dreamscape” on Denkfabrik
EP “Thalassophbia / Nexuos (Remixes)” on Mute
album “The Upward Spiral” on Mute
Nicolas Bougaïeff’s “On The Grid EP” on NovaMute
Nicolas Bougaïeff’s “Permutation Djinn” on NovaMute
Nicolas Bougaïeff’s “Cognitive Resonance” on NovaMute
“Projections” by Nicolas Bougaïeff & Marcus C. Maichel on Denkfabrik
Nicolas Bougaïeff’s “Dust (Remixes)” on Mesh
Nicolas Bougaïeff’s “Dust” on Mesh
Nicolas Bougaïeff’s album “Les Sauvageries” on Denkfabrik
Nicolas Bougaïeff’s album “Principles Of Newspeak” on Denkfabrik
all release on Mute & sublabels
© Photo By Paul Bröse