THE NORTH COUNTRY PRIMER NO 11: BOREALIS, XIXÓN, ASTURIAS, SPAIN
Originally published at North Country Primitive in March 2016
I’d been aware of Borealis thanks to various CDrs of his music that have come out over the past few years on Roger Linney’s extremely prolific micro-label, Reverb Worship, but I knew nothing about who was behind this steady stream of releases. I was drawn to the way his skilful and sensitive playing was often set against a context of almost industrial ambient drone, the track Camero, above, being as case in point. Anyway, it turns out Borealis is the alter-ego of one Eduardo Suárez from Xixón (aka Gijón) in Asturias, Northern Spain, an area better known for the wonderful combination of bagpipes and cider than for guitarists influenced by the American Primitive tradition and the cinematic soundscapes of James Blackshaw. Naturally, I decided we needed to find out more…
Tell us a bit about yourself and the musical journey that took you to a place where you concluded that playing an acoustic guitar on your own was a good idea… I started practicing with a classical Spanish guitar when I was a kid. My father played classic pieces in a non-professional way, so really I was always comfortable in that style, althoughmany years later, I played electric guitar in different bands. Around 2004 I started to record solo songs, using many instruments - guitars, bass, rhythm, and lots of other things - in the vein of Six Organs of Admitance, something that the Reverb Worship label released as 2004-2006, two years ago. Those songs led me to think that I had to use a format that could touch me only. I knew the music of Missisipi John Hurt and John Fahey, but it was not until I met Glenn Jones in person at a concert in Asturias, where I live, and I saw him live, that I realised the possibilities of this style. What have you been up to recently? At the moment, I’m in the middle of recording what will be my fifth album as Borealis. I intended to record it at the end of 2015, but sometimes things are not easy and delays happen. Fortunately it’s already almost completely recorded, so I hope it will come out in spring of this year. It probably will be on the Truco Esparrago label again, with whom I have a very good relationship and who area in my local region, but if any label is interested in releasing it outside Spain or putting it out as a joint release, we’d be happy to do this. The disc follows the line of the previous three - solos for 6 & 12-string guitar. What have been your key influences, musical or otherwise? Are there other current guitarists you feel a particular affinity towards? My influences are obviously classic players such as Mississippi John Hurt, John Fahey, Robbie Basho and other European guitarists, such as John Renbourn. But of more current players, undoubtedly Jack Rose and Glenn Jones were a great inspiration to me, mostly by their way of doing something today on the basis of something that was at the same time so classic Really impressive and something that claimed me forcefully. I really like also the music of Daniel Bachman and the English guitarist, Nick Jonah Davis. What is the balance of composition and to improvisation in your music? I’ve been asked this question many times. Maybe my music may seem more improvised, but I normally start with a composition and, though it does not appear to be so, a mathematical interpretation. I try to always repeat the same pattern, and although sometimes I like to get carried away with improvisation, I do not usually do this in recordings or at concerts.What are you listening to right now, old or new? Any recommendations you’d like to share with us? In recent months, I’ve been listening to lots of music by pianists. Recently I discovered a young pianist, Francesco Taskayali, who I can’t stop listening to and who I would recommend. On the other hand, I often have music playing that sounds pretty remote from the acoustic guitar such as electronics or noise/ambient - or things such as Six Organs of Admittance, Songs Ohia, Silver Mount Zion… The guitar nerd bit: what instruments do you play and what do you like about them? Is there one particular instrument you’d save first in the face of a natural disaster (once you’d saved your nearest and dearest, of course!) It may seem otherwise, but I’m not very careful with my guitars. I currently use an acoustic of average price, even if I am usually more careful with the brand of strings and the recording process, which I am very obsessive about. The only guitar that would save is my old Alhambra 11c, a wonderful classical Spanish concert guitar made by hand in 1986 and with which I have recorded some songs. Banjos: yes or no? Favourite plucked-thing that isn’t a guitar? Coincidentally, these past months I’ve been playing a 4-string banjo. In Asturias, on the north coast of Spain, where I live, the most typical traditional instruments are bagpipes and other wind instruments, along with percussion of Celtic origin, but perhaps a song with banjo would be included Anyway, if I could, I would practice more with the piano, an instrument that I love. What are you working on at the moment and what’s store for you next? Months ago I record a video with a song off my new album. I’m about to finish recording and hope to have it ready for spring. There isn’t much variation regarding the latest album, that is, more 6 & 12 string guitars. I think that there is a more harmonious aspect to these new songs, but I try to keep the same essence, halfway between the folk and the drone/ambient.
You can download music and buy CDs by Borealis from Bandcamp.