Making Moves – In Conversation with Nørus

Image: the cover of Nørus’ ‘In My Dreams’, a circular distorted image of a black and white flower.

Serious lo-fi house fans will be familiar with the iconic track ‘Make a Move’ by Brazilian born Felipe Bortoloti aka Nørus. The song had millions of views on YouTube until recently, when the channel it was hosted on – EELF – was taken down due to multiple copyright strikes. This led to an outcry from fans of the channel, and Nørus in particular, who scrambled to find an archived version of the song and reupload it. Amid all this, Bortoloti is releasing a new EP – Our Special Place – in January, starting his own record label, and experimenting with his new alias, Abysmal. I spoke with him about his “dark side”, YouTube’s heavy-handed copyright enforcement, and being inspired by Burial. 

We began by chatting about the story behind the creation of ‘Make a Move’. Bortoloti currently lives in Sao Paulo, but ‘Make a Move’ was produced during a period in Curitiba, about five and a half hours to the south west. “I lived there for one year and it was a new experience, a very different place from where I’m living nowadays. I was producing a different kind of music that time.” He got his hands on a Tascam Portastudio 424, a four-track audio recorder that writes sound to cassette tape. It was through these tapes that Bortoloti passed his initial iterations of ‘Make a Move’ in order to achieve its fuzzy and warm, analogue aesthetic: “I really enjoyed that kind of sonority in my tracks.” 

He never expected the track to reach such a wide audience: “Although I liked the song a lot, I never thought that it would be possible to get everything I got from it.” He released it digitally on his Bandcamp with little interest at first but after spotting the EELF channel, a platform for newly released underground dance music on YouTube, he got in touch with the channel’s owner, Andrius Vaškevičius. Vaškevičius liked the track and uploaded it over a video of a 24-hour dance marathon at a Lithuanian community centre in 1995. The combination seemed to resonate with house fans; most comments on the video praised the feel of the video which made people “nostalgic for a time they weren’t even alive.” The video became one of the most popular on the EELF channel before its termination earlier this year. 

The video […] made people “nostalgic for a time they weren’t even alive.”

Speaking about YouTube’s decision to delete the channel after its third copyright strike, Bortoloti said, “What happened to EELF was very sad, because it’s a really important channel for new artists to expose their songs. Andrius helped a lot of new artists, including myself[…] YouTube is not fair enough with its users. They don’t hear both sides of the coin and take some steps that I think are disrespectful.” ‘Make a Move’ can be found on other channels on YouTube where it, along with the mesmerising video, has been downloaded from EELF and reuploaded. Bortoloti doesn’t necessarily have a problem with this, “I don’t mind if someone uses my song to do a video, of course putting all the credits to the creator of the music. A lot of people email or message me asking for permission to use my tracks, and I think that’s nice.” 

‘Make a Move’ is a perfect example of the sound that Bortoloti aims to achieve through his Nørus alias, but he has also recently been experimenting with his “darker side” in the form of his Abysmal moniker. The project is still in its infant stages, with only a few unreleased tracks here and there, but Bortoloti promises it’ll shape up to “express a different kind of feeling than Nørus, something even more deep and introspective. It’s a new way I’ve found to explore my music, very distinguished from what I’ve been doing till now.” He elaborated: “Abysmal is more about the bad moments and feelings that everyone experiences sometimes, remembering how fragile and human we are.” Listening to the few Abysmal tracks there are so far, one can’t help but notice a clear homage to the ambience and ethereality of Burial. Bortoloti comments “Burial is one of my biggest inspirations, he’s awesome! He opened my mind to experiment in new ways to produce my own music, even when I do it unconsciously.” 

“It’s about giving more value to the moments with who we love. This situation we’re living in makes me think about the way we choose to live.”

We can probably expect to see Abysmal featuring heavily on Bortoloti’s newly launched record label, Matter Of Time Records. After co-founding Yellow Island Records in 2018, he has spent the last two years developing the necessary skills as a label manager that suggest exciting things for Matter Of Time. Bortoloti plans to use the new label as a vehicle to “find and help new talented producers, besides having a channel to release my experimental stuff… I’ve been working a lot on this new project to do something really nice. Many good new artists are coming.”  

However, the emergence of Abysmal does not mean that Nørus’ days are numbered. Bortoloti has another Nørus EP – Our Special Place – slated for release in late January through French label Deviant Episode. When asked what makes this a Nørus record, rather than Abysmal, Bortoloti told me: “It’s about giving more value to the moments with who we love. This situation we’re living in makes me think about the way we choose to live. It’s a Nørus EP exactly because of that, because of this feeling of hope and good moments.” Tracks like ‘Stay’ definitely feel light-hearted and relaxed, whilst Nørus’ self-described “dusty introspectiveness” can still be heard on Inner Feelings. Ultimately, Our Special Place feels a lot crisper, and a lot less ‘lo-fi’, than what fans of Make a Move might be expecting. Still, the change is a welcome one; a fitting evolution of the Nørus sound. 

Our Special Place will be released through Deviant Episode on January 22nd. Check out new releases from Nørus and Abysmal at Bortoloti’s Soundcloud page, and keep an eye on Matter of Time Records

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