Pump up the Voljum!
Bass heavy visionaries Inspected have returned with a fresh EP this month, this time courtesy of new Austrian talent Voljum (pronounced Volume.)
The 21-year-old, currently based in Austria, previously made his debut on the label with the stunningly rugged contrasts of Missile, released as part of the fourth instalment of the uncompromising Powered by Inspected series.
Now, just under a year later, the label has entrusted the young producer with his own four-track sonic expedition through some of the most experimental sound design heard in recent memory.
Self-admittedly unable to put his music under just one bracket, Voljum has used his wide-ranging tastes to his advantage on the EP, blending the tense, the melancholic and the energetic to deliver a clever marriage of different styles.
The classically trained pianist explores a captivating jazzy landscape, blending influences from his love for video games, classical musical composition and UK dance genres such as drum and bass and dubstep.
His vision sees him use weather and the scenery around him and turn it into unique sounds and moods. From the robotic sound patterns of Components that sees him return to the technical and virtual landscapes he explored in his earlier work on VALE to the moody Half-Overcast that envisions dark storms with the rumblings of thunder and uncanny cawing of birds, Voljum’s masterful production is far beyond his years.
We called up the young Austrian in between his studies to hear all about how he came to craft the new release…
I’ve managed to catch you on one of your free days when you’re not in university. What are you studying?
I’m currently studying piano pedagogy (music education for piano). After I get my degree, I’ll be qualified to become a piano teacher at music schools across the country and hopefully I’ll have a stable job by then.
How has studying been over the past year or so with the pandemic? Have you had any restrictions on going to your classes or anything like that?
Everything had to be taught online. When the pandemic started, we didn’t get any tuition for weeks, until the platforms and methods were found to teach us on. Quickly, it became really fatiguing for me and the lockdown impacted my creative abilities as well as my concentration and motivation. Somehow we all managed to pull through this, and over a year later the uni is possibly going to open up fully next semester. It was especially frustrating since this field of study is quite literally hands-on, but beyond that, the practical experience is really valuable and having to convey that experience through a webcam to a novice, on a platform unfit for this job, is pretty stressful.
I can imagine! Despite the fatigue to your creative abilities, you’re still set for your first full EP on Inspected after previously appearing on their Powered series. How did you first come to be in contact with the Inspected team?
Back in January 2020 I finished a tune called Missile and my friend Josh (who is now my manager) suggested that I should send it to Inspected. Personally, I wasn’t fully convinced that they would take it, given the aggressive nature of the track, but they liked it. A few months before its release, I started work on my next EP, which I’d been planning to do for a while and that managed to get me back on track in terms of my goals, my creativity and my workflow. When I finished the EP in December, I decided to send it to them, and they were more excited about it than I was! And now I can finally present it to people across the globe.
So, this was a project that was primarily completed throughout the pandemic restrictions?
Yes, all of it was made during the pandemic, with little breaks in between.
Tell us a bit more about the EP in terms of the sounds you were trying to convey. For me it’s your best work yet. Some of the sound design is breath-taking!
This EP is all about the weather, landscapes and scenery, as well as my feelings and musical interpretations of them. Starting in the morning, the music develops itself over time, as the weather gets darker and much more intense, ending with sounds of thunder in the final track. I tried not to go overboard with storytelling and let the listeners create their own picture of whatever is going down in the music with their imagination. Sounds of Latin jazz and cinematic music all the way to jungle and UK dubstep are influences that I was keen on incorporating. It sort of signifies my personal shift from acoustic to electronic music in a way as well.
I definitely heard those influences. How would you describe your own music? It’s quite hard to put it into a single bracket…
I struggle with that as well! Sometimes I give up and just call it what it is – electronic music. But if I had to be specific, it really depends on the tune. Sometimes I make melancholic music, other times energetic, uplifting, or even tense and nervous music. Usually there’s also a clear tendency to a specific style, like drum and bass, halftime, dubstep, and so on. That style is analogous to a framework, I use that to fuse it with my own sound.
All the sounds come together so well, no doubt because of your background in music. What is your history with classical training and how does it help your production?
I started playing the piano when I was four years old and that got me on the path of classical music. Over the years, I practiced and advanced, got accepted into conservatories and won about seven competitions. But simultaneously, I was also into video games, which is probably the root of my passion for electronic music. As a teen, I got a little bit into jungle and drum and bass, it was a guilty pleasure for me. So, one day, when I was 15, I decided that I wanted to try out music production and that’s where all of this kicked off for me. My early exposure to music and my pianistic background enabled me to hone my hearing abilities to the point of having absolute pitch, which had never been put to proper use until I began producing music. I primarily use it for composing chords and melodies, as well as mixing.
You mentioned video games there, but judging by your soaring cinematic soundscapes, is film a big influence for you as well?
When I was younger, I still had the time to watch a few movies here and there, so perhaps the effect and influence it had on me remains. I don’t get to watch movies very often these days because I spend most of my time making music and studying. Of course, a lot of the “cinematic” sound also comes from classical music and the way symphonies and chamber music are orchestrated, which definitely had a big impact on my sound.
What video games have had a lasting impact on you? Would scoring games and films be an avenue you’d like to explore in the future?
Definitely, I would love to make music for both! I imagine there are a lot of challenges, but also fun and creative freedoms to be experienced in that field. When it comes to video game influences, I have a great passion for the Gran Turismo series. The aesthetics and music inspired me a lot and it was my gateway to enjoying electronic music. Apart from that, I was also a fan of the Need for Speed series (mainly the mid-2000s games), Midnight Club and the 3D-era Grand Theft Auto games. All of these introduced me to new and exciting music and their impact on me certainly lasts to this day.
Let’s return back to the influence of weather and nature as well. In the new EP this can be heard best in Half Overcast, not only with the name of the track but at the end with the wind and thunder and birds cawing. Why is the sound of weather something you wanted to convey with this project?
Over the years, I’ve noticed that weather heavily affects my mood, my emotions. As a child, I always felt excited when I saw a thunderstorm coming and I still feel the same way. It’s a great spectacle and if we’re not in danger, it’s worth enjoying every moment of it – especially because it’s usually a very rare event and that makes it even more special to me.
Can you remember the first time you experienced weather and recognised the musicality of it?
The musicality of weather and climate was always present to me. It’s also the most natural thing you could possibly convey through music, which is why it’s so popular in a lot of classical music (think of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for example).
You mentioned earlier about how you got into jungle and drum and bass when you were in your teenage years. What kind of artists were you listening to?
Omni Trio, Aquasky, Photek, Breakage, Peshay, Bizzy B, DJ Zinc, Goldie, E-Z Rollers, Calyx and so on. I’ve also been tuning in to Jungletrain from time to time ever since I discovered that site back in 2014.
That’s quite a list! The first track I heard from you was your flip of Calyx’s Follow the Leader. That was still in your early electronic production days wasn’t it? What was it about that tune or Calyx as a producer that made you want to tackle that?
I felt a bit nostalgic about Midnight Club (since this song was in that game) and because I was into the halftime sound back then, I gave it a little twist. I had the option to choose any other track from the album it was on. They were all fantastic tunes, but this one stood out to me because of the connection I had with it. Looking back at it, I have developed a lot as a music producer. When you listen to it, it’s quite obvious that I only had two years of experience back then.
And it wasn’t long after you released the remix that you fell in with the VALE crew, right? Like Inspected they must be perfect for an artist like yourself- they really give you a blank canvas to express yourself and make what you like…
Yup, I released Monotony just a month later on VALE. I’m really happy that Inspected trusted and respected my creative vision for this EP. They’re practically legends of the more experimental side of bass-heavy electronica and it feels very special to have their full support. I want to give kudos to VALE as well, because they really helped getting me to the point I’m at right now. They provided a place for my early releases, and even helped set up a fundraiser after my laptop was smashed to pieces by my unsupportive father.
That’s a crazy story man! It’s always so nice to hear how the bass music community can come together and support each other in tough situations. Was your father unsupportive because he doesn’t recognise electronic music as an art form?
He probably doesn’t. Mainly though, he viewed it as a complete waste of my time, simply because it wasn’t a lucrative activity. He completely ignored the fact that I’m doing it because I saw the opportunity to finally express my very own emotions, concepts and ideas through music, instead of reciting other composers’ pieces. I’m doing it because it makes me feel like I’m worth something and because it helps me feel mentally well.
And only a few years on from when you first started, I’m reading comments online of people comparing your work to artists like KOAN Sound, Culprate and Shades. Those kinds of comparisons must really drive you on to continue…
They really mean everything to me. Often, when I’m in a bad mood, I have to remind myself that there are people who genuinely enjoy my stuff. Sometimes it’s difficult to believe how my music can positively affect other people. It normally comes from an emotional place though, so it’s quite logical.
Before we let you go, I just want to look ahead and see if you’ve got any other projects that we can be looking out for in the near future?
After this EP, I’m thinking about releasing more singles and perhaps a couple of remixes. After that, who knows…