Last month the world was graced with an electronic masterpiece. An album with vibrant texture, atmospheric builds, and entrancing compositions that culminated in a riveting sonic experience. That sound could only come from one person, Joris Voorn.
Inspired by the mid-90s electronic scene, \\\\ (pronounced four) is the fourth album from Joris and is the followup to the highly-praised 2014 album, Nobody Knows. \\\\ features collaborations with Voorn’s heroes Underworld, British trip-hop outfit HÆLOS, the South African poet Lazarusman and Dutch pianist Michiel Borstlap. These collaborations help to form a cohesive sound and vision that listeners will latch to from the start.
To better understand the vision behind \\\\ we caught up with Joris to dig inside his mind and unravel the genius behind one of the best electronic albums of the year.
When you begin writing an album, what are your first steps to the process?
To be honest I don’t think I ever set out to start with one thing in particular, as I’m writing music all of the time, whether it’s for the dancefloor or just ideas that start on the road or in the studio that become ambient or non-club music. My inspiration can arise anytime, anywhere and a lot of the time it’s on the road or in the air. This album is a collection of tracks that represent who I am as an artist, on which I wanted to showcase the various different sides of my sound which I only usually get to do with album projects.
You’ve mentioned that the new album, \\\\, is heavily influenced by the electronic scene of the mid-90s, which includes the music of Underworld. What was it like working with your heroes?
Working with Underworld was a true pleasure. I first met them at ADE in 2017 after being an admirer of their work for almost 25 years. I was definitely nervous, but mostly excited to be working with my heroes. The collaboration turned out even better than I expected, so I’m very proud of the end result.
Were there any specific tracks from the 90s that you drew inspiration from?
I would mention 2 tracks especially that had a big impact on me:
Orbital – Halcyon & On & On: I found Halcyon on the soundtrack of the Hackers movie, along with many other amazing tracks, but this track stood out. It was easy to like, the beautiful pads and vocals of the beginning make it one of electronic music’s most iconic tracks to date. I was familiar with some of Orbital’s albums, but hadn’t heard this more dance floor oriented deep house/techno track. It blew me away at the time and still has a special place in my heart.
Choice – Acid Eiffel: I had bought an ‘I Love Fuse’ compilation CD with many great melodic techno and ambient tracks, and one was “Acid Eiffel,” a repetitive but imaginative 10 minute trip based around a driving acid loop and happy sad heartbreakingly beautiful pads. It showed me how repetition and small changes of sounds appeared to be the DNA of techno music, even when it was as melodic as this. Later on I learned that Laurent Garnier was responsible for many more great tracks. Years later he would shake the techno world with his ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’ album that again set a new standard in techno
Are there any underlying themes or specific feelings that you want listeners to draw from the album?
I want listeners to enjoy the music I have created, however or wherever they wish to listen to it. That may create different memories for each person depending on their situation as everyone connects certain music with a certain time in their life. I’m really only trying to make the best music I can make and I hope that everyone else enjoys it too. It’s also really essential that my listeners get a feeling of this album being me. A Joris Voorn album, but with a sense of a musical progression from previous albums. I hope that people can tell that I’ve become a better producer and working towards perfecting my craft every day.
The cover plus accompanying promotional photos, have you in a red jumpsuit. It’s reminiscent of the Beastie Boys and other 90s groups. Is this where the idea came from?
In my moodboard for the album shoot I moved towards the colour red for clothes, so the stylist brought only red clothes, including the jumpsuit, which we used at the start of the shoot and went on to form part of the theme for the album campaign.
The version of “District Seven” packaged on the album is different from the single version. What was the reasoning behind including the “broken” version over the original?
When I was working on this new version for “District Seven” I started reconstructing it and by putting the pieces together again, it turned into a broken beat version. It just happened this way, the groove really fit the music. On top of that, I added some atmospheric elements and some Blade Runner-esque lead synths that seemed to fit the vibe really well. Once it was ready, it really fit within the soundscape of the album and so I decided to include it on the final tracklist.
“Ryo” was inspired by your son, Ryoma. How often do you reference your children or family in your music? Was there something, in particular, about Ryoma that inspired the song?
I have made tracks for both of my sons now, one for Ryoma and one for Ringo. The tracks mean a lot to me because they have a very personal connection with my kids. “Ryo” really is a dedication to my son and his way of seeing the world. When you watch the video, you see Ryoma’s world as if you’re in it.
On “This City”, you worked with South African Poet, Lazarusman. Where did the idea come from to work with and feature a poet? Was the theme of loneliness always the intended direction for Lazarusman and the song as a whole?
When I contacted Lazarusman to ask for a collaboration, I didn’t hear back from him for a long time. In the meantime I finished the track and I thought, after still no reply, that it was going to be a track without lyrics. On the final day the mastered CD was waiting for my approval, then I received an e-mail with the amazing and beautiful lyrics from Lazarusman. He came with the loneliness theme which fit so well to the track, so I decided to add the vocals anyway and release for the CD and digital versions of the album. Sadly it came in too late for the vinyl release!
You mentioned using Korg Poly-800 on “Polydub” and SH-101, MC-202 on “Never”, plus the other synths you utilize throughout the album. Do you have a favorite Synthesizer or a most-used Synth?
The Roland Juno 106 has always been a favourite of mine as it brings so much vintage warmth to your productions. It’s full of potential and it’s enriched all tracks I’ve used it in. I’m also in love with the OB6 and my Prophet synthesizers, they are phenomenal pieces of hardware.
On “Blanky”, you work with Dutch pianist, Michiel Borstlap. You blend electronic and the acoustic nature of the piano to form an absolutely beautiful composition. Are there any challenges that arise from the blending of electronic and acoustic? Is your proclivity to add orchestral elements or acoustic elements influenced by your childhood where you learned violin and guitar plus being the son of a composer?
Coming from a classical family, I’m used to making bridges between the two genres. “Blanky” combines the two parts of me in one track. Michiel Borstlap did an amazing job adding more emotion to it, which was a challenge to do myself. The contrast between the classical and electronic music actually makes the song much more interesting.
You’re in the midst of a European run of shows. Any particular songs/tracks/edits that you’ve enjoyed performing?
At the moment I love to play tracks from \\\\, taking the album on tour. If I had to mention one track in particular that has really gotten great feedback at pretty much all of my shows is “Antigone.” There’s something about the way it’s arranged, the sounds, the build-up, etc. that just captivates people in a special way.
Over the years, you’ve played many shows across the globe that included stops at some of the most iconic places. Do you have any favorite sets or venues? Any fond performance memories that you’d like to share?
If I had to pick one that stood out this summer it would have been my own Spectrum event at Tomorrowland at the stage in the woods. The weather was not really good, but people stayed put and it was just a beautiful day with people dancing in the rain and soaking in the music and not just the water. It also made me a bit proud of what I have achieved with my brand Spectrum.
Who are some younger artists that our readers should listen to or some that you think are poised for a breakout?
There’s a lot of talent around! But if I have to name someone, it would be Colyn. His track “Amor” has to be one of my favorite tracks this year. Definitely one to watch.
What is next for you? Any plans for an album tour?
Yes, in the middle of it right now! A lot more dates are planned, very excited to celebrate the new album with all of you. Next year is filled with interesting places to celebrate my album and I’m looking forward to it.