Belgian artist Francois Boulanger has traversed a huge amount of sonic ground since first releasing music as Kingfisherg in the mid 2000s, dropping in an out of hip hop, house, ambient and everything in between. As Cupp Cave, Boulanger’s work takes on a driving, percussive quality, referencing 90s house, disco and funk, while remaining aimed squarely at the dancefloor. It’s Boulanger’s work as ssaliva that has proven truly inspiring since the project’s debut on Leaving Records in 2012, a mixture of tape hiss-ensconced ambient, prog-y keyboard work, and, more recently, a flair for affective R&B samples and disarmingly crystalline sound design. 2015 saw releases on Belgian labels Bepotel Records and Ekster respectively, the former extending into reverb-laden pop (sort of reminiscent of Hype Williams at their most playful) while the latter extends gracefully into the experimental depths, sounding right at home next to Ekster releases from the likes of TCF and Jack N. Riot.
It’s often difficult to judge an artist’s work in full when they’ve released on so many labels and introduced such a wide stylistic net, but the large majority of ssaliva’s work somehow feels cohesive, the trembling warmth of Thought Has Winds (on Leaving), acting as a more direct, quick hitting analogue to 2015’s “I Know What A Ghost Is” mix, which sees the Belgian diving into work from artists like Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf, DJ WWW and Helm. In some respects, the warmth and sense of timestretch in much of Boulanger’s music recalls new age and his Astral Plane mix certainly touches on the relaxation genre at times, although the range of emotions in any one ssaliva tape surely extends beyond the oft-saccharine mood of most new age. Bits of piano and distorted guitar illuminate one song in Boulanger’s short, but wholly engrossing, mix for our series, while bits of angelic vocal work and crystalline synth work point to a new direction in his work, seen on his contribution to Wasabi Tapes’ recent compilation. Few artists consistently hold our attention as they change moniker and aesthetic, but Boulanger’s work as Kingfisherg,Cupp Cave and especially ssaliva has always kept us peaked and looking for more.