Sampling FOONYAP’s many musical layers

Creating a sonic blanket to keep you warm

On Jan. 24, Calgary’s FOONYAP (the stage moniker of musician Foon Yap) will grace the stage of the Ballroom to open Big Fun Festival with their vulnerable and mesmerizing experimental folk electronic music.

“It’s the most beautiful and ethereal music,” Ava Glendinning says.

“It’s like an ocean that is not stormy, but it’s got so much power. I felt like I was riding a wave in another dimension,” Dominique Lemoine adds.

Glendinning and Lemoine make up Winnipeg’s À La Mode, who shared the stage with FOONYAP just over a year ago in Winnipeg, alongside local JohNNy SiZZle and FOONYAP’s tourmate Hello Moth.

FOONYAP’s 2016 release, Palimpsest, is described as a “a therapeutic reconciliation” between their “sheltered Chinese-Catholic heritage and the intense classical music training of (their) childhood.”

According to FOONYAP, their music melds all of their influences.

“There are distinctive Chinese melodies in my work, but I don’t purport to be an ambassador for Chinese traditional music,” FOONYAP says. “I do play classical violin, and so I draw on my technique to express the emotive qualities of my music.”

Some elements of traditional Chinese music that a listener may notice are the spacious sense of timing, the tonal quality and the minimalism, they say.

“Palimpsest” refers to a manuscript from which the original writing has been erased to make room for new material, but traces of the original remain.

“My music is imbued with who I am,” FOONYAP says of their process. “When I make art, it’s a processing and then the creation of something new entirely.”

“What’s in you is already there, but then you have to go back and get it. Your first iterations are rarely what gets shown. It’s a process of acknowledging what is there, working with it and then having the courage to go back and polish it until … it expresses the complexity of (the experience),” FOONYAP says.

“It’s a difficult and vulnerable process.”

Clearly, audiences have been receptive to the music, evidenced by FOONYAP’s position on the 2017 Polaris Music Prize Longer List.

They also say that they have noticed a recent shift in who is on stage with them.

“In Canada in the past two years, there’s been (an) acknowledgement that inclusivity is now at the forefront of emerging art, and that means that more women and People of Colour are being represented on stages and festivals,” they say. “My experience has been that, finally, I’m sharing stages with People of Colour (and) women doing all kinds of music.”

According to Glendinning, electronic music enables a unique storytelling experience.

“It allows, sonically, for a really interesting experience,” she says. “Using loops, you get to play around with layers of sound and create an atmosphere that helps you tell the story of the song.”

“FOONYAP employed that so well.”

FOONYAP will play the Ballroom (218 Roslyn Rd.) on Jan. 24. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available on Ticketfly and at Music Trader. Palimpsest, as well as FOONYAP’s latest EP, APROPOS, can be heard on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

Published in Volume 72, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 18, 2018)

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