If an artist alias can serve as a hint, the slightly misspelled word ssaliva certainly evokes a clammy biological imagery. It belongs to François Boulanger, a seasoned producer from Liège, a middle-sized city in eastern Belgium. Boulanger has operated over the last few years under different monikers including Cupp Cave and Kingfisherg. In the past his watery sounds have leaned in different directions, from synth ambience through retrofuturist vaporwave to sample-based sci-fi. It’s often playful and makes you think of eating gummy bears. His output is prolific and has been released on labels like Brussels’ Vlek, as well as Not Not Fun, Ekster and Bepotel. For his latest record 4s4 —a limited release 12-inch 180 gram vinyl launched via Berlin’s Edition Société at the gallery space on September 15 —inaugurates a release and event series curated by Berlin-based producer Club Cacao.
The cover of ssaliva’s EP features a green jelly font sign spread across a hyperrealised bed of sand and minerals reflecting artificial light. It’s the artist’s joint effort with Brussels-based artist and sculptor Xavier Mary, who’s interested in the ever-evolving dichotomies of things like history versus modernity, online and offline, candor versus irony. These contradictions are reflected in a song like ‘spellbound’ premiering through aqnb, and sounding like a lazy lake cruise scored by an unknown string instrument sonically resembling drops dropping into water. ssaliva always keeps his listener in doubt of whether we’re dealing with the natural or the artificial, inviting us into a world of his own.
4S4 comprises four other-worldly tracks, viscerally organic and soft but at the same time mechanically cold. The title song sneaks in slowly like futuristic cyberbugs parasitizing a grand piano. ssaliva continues to explore a sonic world stretched between the human and non-human as he did in the past on his album Pantanin for Leaving Records. In 4s4, Boulanger fuses stone-cold voice synthesizers with the unbridled chaos of nature’s microcosm. ‘no’ rattles and shakes with motoric squeaks similar to the insectile sound-palette of Lotic’s ‘Agitations’. Then again, ‘protection 2’ simulates the gentle chords of an acoustic guitar, taking the listener back to the immediate here and now and the idea of human agency. ssaliva multiplies layers of the song with background noises akin to a hissing smoke machine. It fuels our imagination with visions of AI objects gaining human features and subjectivity, a suspended state of becoming.**
Header image: Courtesy ssaliva.
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