This uncompromising Romanian artist is on the cusp of releasing her excellent debut album. Mark Smith hears how her tenacious mindset shaped its unique sound.
Boruzescu approaches electronic music with a different ear than most. A huge chunk of her youth was spent singing, recording and touring the globe in Bucharest's children's choir, giving her an understanding of the harmony and construction underpinning hundreds of years of Western classical music. She started DJing shortly after leaving the choir in her late teens and steadily built a style that could be reductively described as the Romanian answer to Salon Des Amateurs' Lena Willikens, Vladimir Ivkovic and Tolouse Low Trax—indeed, it was Willikens who recommended Boruzescu to Cómeme's Matias Aguayo.
Boruzescu's development as an artist has reached new heights with the release of her debut album on Cómeme, A Body. Her voice takes centre stage, but not in the way you might expect given her choral background. It's marked by striking intimacy and narcotic distance, like a presence whispering in your ear while you're under general anesthetic. When I visited Boruzescu in Berlin to learn about the process behind the record, I was struck by her dogged commitment to creating music on her own terms. In an age where producers often feel as though they're fighting for attention, Boruzescu's attitude reflects a rare degree of confidence and humility.
Did you envision making an album or was it a suggestion from somewhere else?
Well, it wasn't my idea.
That's far more common than most people think, though.
I just had a batch of tracks I was working on over the past year. Cómeme wanted to do a new release so I sent over what I had and they answered, "Do you want to release an album?" I was like, "Really?" To be honest, I didn't see it as an album, but when I started putting it together and reworked the tracks it began to make sense. It was coming from a single timespan and the tracks were telling the same story. Now that it's mastered and released I can say that it makes total sense from the first to the last track. I didn't add too much, I just found the right order.
In hindsight, do you think that's a less stressful way of making an album? Having a preconceived plan is a very different state of mind from creating without an overarching vision.
It's true, but I can honestly say that when I make music I never think in terms of the release or the format. This is something that I never do and I never will be able to do in the future. I like to stay honest with myself and to avoid artificially sticking things in a box. I think working to a format would suffocate me at some point. I would rather work freely, gather the pieces together and ask, "What do we have here? How can we rebuild this puzzle?"
This sounds like a healthy approach. But many producers get derailed by thinking, "Who or what is this music for?"
I respect everybody's way of working but you can't make music with the thought of "Where am I going to release this?" Of course you have to start a dialogue with labels when they want music from you, but I always tell them, "Look guys, don't expect anything." I'm not going to deliver something specific that they're asking for because it all depends on what I'm feeling when I'm working.
Did you learn this from chasing labels before your music started coming out?
Not really. I was making music through those years and I was thinking that it'd be nice to release it. But I never thought with the mentality of pleasing a label in order to have something come out. My first record on Cómeme came about when the label manager walked up to me on a dance floor and asked me to send them music. My first reaction was, "Sure, but I don't think my music would fit on the label." It was an honest answer. I could've gone home and worked on tracks that I thought would fit on Cómeme, whatever that means. Instead, I said that I'd send them what I have with the proviso that I don't think it's going to work out. In the end, it fit. That's a big thing for me though—if I feel I'm in the wrong place I'd much rather not be there at all.
Again, this sounds like the ideal attitude. But there is a pervasive idea that producers are competing for finite opportunities, so you have to actively pursue your goals in order to get what you want.
I think that at the very start, nobody should be chasing anything. Artists shouldn't force themselves to bend to expectations, be they self-imposed or from the outside. Because at that moment the art, or whatever you want to call it, loses value.
We have access to such a wide variety of sounds that you can pursue whatever aesthetic you want. But that doesn't mean it's going to sound or feel honest. It also sounds like you're talking about managing ego. Perhaps I am the egocentric one because what I'm doing is in the first place for myself. And I know that the moment I have satisfied myself, it might appeal to others, too. If I'm unhappy, it doesn't work. If I couldn't work this way for some reason, I'd rather do something else, like gardening.
Maybe part of the pressure is an economic issue. Some people start developing in electronic music very early and begin making a living out of it quite quickly. At some point, in order to keep doing it, to sustain yourself with it, you feel you need to make a deal with the devil—at least for some people. I haven't found myself in that position and hopefully never will. I'm trying to stay true enough in order for people not to expect something from me other than what I'm doing. If the day ever came that I needed to deliver work purely to sustain myself, I would find other options to survive. If what I do doesn't feed me, then so be it.
Your first record came out barely two years ago but you've been DJing for much longer. I get the sense that you didn't rush your move into production.
I started DJing in Bucharest when I was 19. It was maybe about three years ago that making electronic music became my main thing. Before then I was in a research stage—it was more on a hobby level. I was DJing quite often, but I wasn't living off of it and never considered music production as a means of sustaining myself.
You said research there. What do you mean specifically?
Research sounds quite deliberate but it was more unconscious in reality. I learned Ableton Live years ago but finding my own language and voice took much longer. After a certain point, it's not so much about learning the software but finding the sounds that feel representative of you. Once you discover the sounds then the rest can fall into place.