BLR is the alias of renowned producer Leon Bolier, adopted to showcase a deep, dark yet melodically-focused club sound.
His debut album – Odyssee comes out next week, melodically rich and with a depth that rewards repeat listens. Idiosyncratic and highly varied in mood and tempo throughout, it includes both soaring progressive anthems and downtempo cuts.
We spoke to BLR to understand more about the album, how it came about.
T.H.E – Hey Leon! Welcome to T.H.E – Music Essentials. How’s it going?
BLR – Hey guys thanks for having me, all is going well! Just super busy – which is a good thing I guess!
T.H.E – We are super excited about the release of your debut album under the BLR alias. When and how did you decide to create an alias for a deeper, darker side of your sounds?
BLR – This kinda naturally happened after the a&r manager at Spinnin records back in 2016 (I think) showed me a couple of old James Holden records, and tracks like Oxia – Domino and so on. I told him: ‘yo you know those are some of my all-time favs as well, no? You think the time is right to make some of this music again?’ to which he responded positively. I got back to the studio and sent him a demo of a track now known as “Nungwi” the same day; later he showed this to Tiësto, who wanted to sign this track as the first release to his to-be-launched Aftr:Hrs records – which was great as “Nungwi” would be the first track of my BLR project as well. At that time I felt this would be a great (creative) outlet for more leftfield and experimental music compared to my Bolier alias.
T.H.E – What do you think about the current state of underground music? Do you feel some of the sounds are getting monotonous?
BLR – Not really, I mean if sounds are getting monotonous it’s all up to whoever is involved in the music to change that. Like, if I’d think stuff gets monotonous I would make some stuff I thought wasn’t monotonous – so in that perspective, I would never want to be pointing fingers at what others are doing. If I hear something someone did and I think it’s amazing, awesome. If I hear stuff I think is monotonous, I’ll skip it – or get to work. I think however that the underground will always keep moving anyway, things getting monotonous usually is a result of a certain sound getting overnight success and thus people jumping on the sound; this isn’t too much of a problem tho as I think it’ll oversaturate in no time and something fresh will emerge from that same underground – the way it always has been ever since house music was born.
T.H.E – You have mentioned that “Odyssee” started back in 2018. Did you consciously start working on it, to make an album, or did it happen on the go, as you kept producing more and more tracks?
BLR – The bulk of the album I produced between summer and end 2018, in a continuous process (next to taking care of my other projects) – right before Amsterdam Dance Event 2018 I realized I had spent every single day in the studio for 43 days straight, so yeah it was kind of a journey, but well worth it.
T.H.E – When did you have an idea to make an album?
BLR – Before summer last year when my manager took a few track ideas to Musical Freedom/Aftr:Hrs to show and they together asked me if I’d be up for making an album – which I right away positively responded to. Making albums is fun, especially when you have a great label to back it.
T.H.E – It includes 15 tracks. How did you decide on which artists to collaborate with, on the album?
BLR – That just happens on the go – some of the artists I worked with showed me an idea I liked and then I’d suggest to collab on it for the album. As for the vocals, all of them are written by the same songwriter, who I work with on lots of things as we got a great connection and know what we want in a track.
T.H.E – Which tracks were the most difficult to produce?
BLR – Hmmm none really, all tracks are a result of, how do I say this, an outcome I’d already have in mind – it never has been difficult, sometimes a bit challenging maybe, for example if I’d want a sonic result I hadn’t sound-designed before and thus finding ways how to get where I want, but usually this can be done by logical thinking and applying some physics – as opposed to the creative process of coming up with melodies, grooves, and lyrics. So I’d not point out any tracks that were difficult to produce – but a track like ‘Bark’ was rewarding as I had to find out some different ways to get where I wanted to be sound-wise for that track. I surely hope people can spot that when listening!
T.H.E – What is the most single-minded narrative you have tried to explain, with all of these tracks?
BLR – I think, when you’d look at the collection of tracks as a whole, cheesy as it might sound, those together form an odyssee, a journey that takes you from a peaceful place to dark and raw places before landing you right back home. This all combined with a snapshot of what had been going on in my mind while producing the album, from a creative point of view as well as a technical and more analytic – point of view when it comes to sound design.
T.H.E – What does the rest of 2019 look like for you?
BLR – Music and more music – after the album, I will be focusing on a couple more BLR singles as well as that I want to kick up the Bolier output a notch. Next, to this I recently started a contemporary classical music project with Nelson Tordera from Italy (called Frédér) we are regularly releasing under as well as the fact that I work together with a company called Pusher, they mainly work on getting music done for (Hollywood) movie trailers, big ad campaigns, etc.
Next, to this, I am currently finishing a six-track EP that will be released together with a reporter/writer working on a global project – more details on this later. As for Bolier, next to the radio/streaming friendly tracks I have been releasing the past couple of years I will also start releasing some more festival-ready tracks – and I am working on an own label to host some of the more streaming friendly Bolier tunes, so yeah, lots happening!
T.H.E – Thanks, Leon!
BLR – Thank you too!
BLR’s debut album, Odyssee, comes out via AFTR:HRS on August 30, 2019. You can get it here.