Boundary goes deep

We spoke to Ghislain Poirier about his dark techno / deep house project.

Ghislain Poirier
There’s no point comparing Boundary and Poirier. Sure, they’re the same guy. But less split-personality than yin-and-yang complement, the Boundary sound is far from the islands of Karnival, or the electro-Queb-rap of occasional collaborator Face-T, instead bent on a dark techno edge with deep house elements; more dimly lit afterhours affair than sunny beach party, even when the waves break.

Boundary brings a second LP, Still Life, to the stage this Sunday evening at Bleury Bar à Vinyle, with live accompaniment by drummer Christian Olsen and synth man Daniel Thouin. On the precipice of a long, dark winter, we spoke last week about limitations, imitations and intimations.

Darcy MacDonald: When you’re a multi-genre musician, are boundaries harder to find? Does one need to impose boundaries on oneself? And is it more about wanting to break them, or needing to have them?
Boundary: Well, the name of the project isn’t so much about personal boundaries. It’s more like a reflection of the world from a geo-political point of view. There are boundaries, or borders, or lines or whatever, to divide either land or people. So I thought it was a powerful term. It was sort of about boundaries we put on ourselves, but it wasn’t (a question) of trying to get out of personal musical boundaries.

DM: You’ve engaged in so many different genres of electronic music. Do you think when people are experimenting, they risk un-doing themselves, becoming so avant-garde that they can’t come back?
Poirier: Do you mean trying too much (to the point) that it isn’t relevant? Or a lack of focus?

DM: A lack of focus, probably. A good example is that Common album, Electric Circus. I actually really liked that album, but it was trying to be everything to everyone, and then some.
Boundary: Yeah, that was awhile ago! And I read recently about it. I think it was an excerpt from ?uestlove’s book, talking about how people didn’t get it when it was released.

DM: To be clear, I’m not worried you’re suffering from this. But are there artists who are trying to do too much, to their detriment?
Boundary: It’s hard for me to judge from an external point of view, but I would say it’s not easy sometimes to jump from one style to another style, and it does require time and focus to do so. It’s a hard line to walk, but it also always depends on the reason you’re doing it. If you decide to jump on a certain bandwagon because it’s doing well, maybe that’s not the best reason. Sometimes musicians are afraid to change because they’re afraid they’ll alienate their public, and they stick to a certain formula, and repeat themselves. Sometimes they do have a new creation and they’re just scared. What’s hard isn’t jumping styles — it’s jumping from scene to scene that is harder to achieve.

In my case it was something I truly felt. When I decided to do Boundary, it wasn’t just “Boundary.” That’s the music that came out of me. And I’d say through the middle of the first album, I decided I couldn’t release it as Poirier. Not because it’s not me. But because I still have a lot of stuff to do, musically speaking, in the dancehall, or soca, or reggae field, and I felt it was quite hard to justify these (different) things at the same time.

I finally came to the conclusion it needed not only a different name, but also a different visual presentation, and a different way to perform it. So it wasn’t just the music, but the way it was packaged. With the second project, Still Life, I’d say the aesthetic is even stronger. The project is deeper.

DM: I remember you telling me it was “a bit darker” as you were working on it last year. It’s, uh…fucking violent, man! (laughing)
Boundary: It’s quietly violent.

DM: It’s angry! Or that’s what it brought out in me. But you can almost talk about the album in two parts: it’s relentless, and then the light breaks, and the waves die down a little. To me the first album is smooth. This one comes in like a lion.
Boundary: I think there’s way more repetition, and you have to focus on it a bit more to hear what’s moving within those repetitions. So it requires a bit more effort from the listener — it’s not an easy listen. But at the same time, it can be background music. If you have it in the background, it’s still kind of nice to listen to. But then when you focus on it, you’ll be like, “Oh shit, something is going on there!” It’s self-contained.

For me it was a very emotional process to do the album and I find the music very personal, in a certain way. You either listen to it or you don’t listen to it, but it’s not poppy (compared to the first one). It’s more of an experience. I discovered the whole sound while making it. There are radical ideas that weren’t there before. ■
Boundary performs with opening act Zachary Gray at le Bleury Bar à Vinyle (2109 Bleury) on Sunday, Nov. 16, 8:30 p.m., $10