Bubblin' Up: Ssaliva / Cupp Cave
- Words: Patric Fallon
François Boulanger has been making drugged-out electronic music longer than most might realize. Based in Liège, Belgium, the producer has remained unnaturally prolific since he first started out with the name Kingfisherg about 10 years ago, quietly releasing bits of crunchy IDM via the now-defunct Carte Postale imprint and cassette label Wigflip. And yet Boulanger has only more recently began garnering international attention for the drifty, experimental beats he crafts under his two currently active monikers, Ssaliva and Cupp Cave. Now more than ever, people seem to be listening to—and enjoying—the wealth of music Boulanger creates, and as his quality releases and subsequent accolades start to pile up, it would appear that his moment could very well be right around the corner.
"I've been making stuff as Ssaliva for a bit more than a year, now," the artist explains. "Cupp Cave started around 2006, I'd say." It's true; Discogs lists 2008 as the year Cupp Cave's first full-length, Garbage Pail Beats, arrived, and Mercury Coast, the first offering from Ssaliva for the Surf Kill label (a joint endeavor he runs along with friends Dynooo and Nosedrip), apparently dropped on February 1, 2011. Be that as it may, neither project really started taking off until later that year, when Matthewdavid's Leaving Records unveiled Ssaliva's Thought Has Wings cassette and Vlek pressed the Dice Pool 10" for Cupp Cave. The support from multiple labels could appear sudden or random to outsiders, but for Boulanger, it was all a long time coming. "I've been chatting with Matthewdavid for ages now, even before the first Cupp Cave [record] got released." He elaborates, "I've always been a big fan of both his music and Leaving Records. As for Vlek, those guys [have been] good friends for quite a while."
Despite the clear lines drawn between Boulanger's two production aliases, their ever-expanding output can often be somewhat difficult to differentiate by mere listening. Cupp Cave does tend to gravitate toward higher bpms than Ssaliva, but both projects still rely heavily on slowed-down samples, wavering synth tones, a gritty sonic aesthetic, and vintage inspirations and source materials. A track like "Crayola" sounds like the kind of psychedelic house Boulanger might release as Cupp Cave, and the '80s-tinged "Bable" jam wouldn't have been totally of place on an early Ssaliva tape. For the producer, however, it all boils down to method. "As for Cupp Cave, it's mainly the laptop [I use], [but] when I started Ssaliva, I was kind of sick of the laptop, so I started messing with loopers and a four-track porta-studio," he says. "In the end, I still use those, but also samplers and synths."
It's that handmade, analog-centric style of producing that brought about this year's excellent RZA EP, Boulanger's latest release as Ssaliva. Well, those methods in addition to the inspiration of his friends and musical peers, who he currently lives with in Liège. "I've always made music alone, in a place quite far from any distractions, so the fact that I'm surrounded by people making all sorts of things all day is really refreshing. Wanda Group, Dynooo, and Sagat; all those guys inspire me a lot."
When asked what he's currently working on, Boulanger says, "I've been working a lot on the visual elements to go along with the music, lately. Lots of video experimentations." Case in point: the murky clip for "Mental Ray" (below), a cut from his forthcoming Ssaliva record for Surf Kill, Sextape Hiss. He also shares that there are new tunes on the way from Vlek and the latest addition to the roster of labels he works with, Ramp, the latter of which will take the form of a Cupp Cave mini-album called Retina Waves. We've been anticipating its imminent release on April 9 for what feels like forever, but Boulanger often and without forewarning drops unreleased music on both Ssaliva's and Cupp Cave's SoundCloud accounts, so that helps satiate our hunger for his dusty tunes. Suffice it to say, Boulanger's creativity is restless, and by the time his new albums arrive, the producer will undoubtedly have another year's worth of syrupy beats and vibrant dreamscapes ready to unload in whatever ways he sees fit. Finishing up his preview of what's in the works, the artist adds one more important item to the list: "Oh, much slower tempos, too."
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