wed 17/04/2024

Album: Bolis Pupul - Letter to Yu | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Bolis Pupul - Letter to Yu

Album: Bolis Pupul - Letter to Yu

A deep, strange, lovely electropop exploration of intersecting cultures

Between cultures: Belgian born-and-raised Bolis Pupul explores the Chinese side of his heritage

This album starts on an extremely literal note. The whole record is themed around Belgian born-and-raised Bolis Pupul’s explorations of the Chinese side of his heritage after his mother’s death in 2008, and his regrets at not having done so when she was alive. And the opening title track has him explaining precisely this, in a portentously pitched-down voiceover reading the titular letter to his mother.

It’s sweet in its directness, but in context its “this is what this record is, and this is what it’s going to do” statement seems blunt – like turning the sleeve notes into a tune.

It feels a little churlish to criticise something so heartfelt – but the thing is, every part of the record thereafter is so perfectly poised and put together, so rich and complex in its melancholy and dislocation, so exquisite of its incorporation of Chinese tonality and timbre into its electropop frameworks, that the exposition just feels unnecessary. Pupul does everything he set out to do here, and more. You can feel the sense of someone between cultures charting connections, you can hear love, longing and sadness, and you might even feel like you’re drawn into his quest yourself.

The medium really is part of the message here. Like so much on Soulwax’s DEEWEE label, the electropop sound has evolved way past its obvious “Eighties-ness” into a kind of folk form for expressing modern cosmopolitanism. Belgium and its nightclubs were always a home for advancement of electronic dance and pop music going right back to its beginning – and Pupul plays on the sometimes naive orientalism and exoticism of early Eighties records, but brings such sophistication to the sound-making and the composition alike that there’s not even a whiff of kitsch about it: rather, a beautifully rendered web of connections back and forth through decades and continents sparkling with detail. Its multi-lingual, multi-cultural grooves are deeply personal, but also map out a wide world of ghostly pasts and unevenly distributed futures – all round it’s quite a magical record that honestly doesn’t need all that much explanation to enjoy hugely.

@joemuggs

Listen to "Ma Tau Wai Road":

The electropop sound has evolved way past its obvious “Eighties-ness” into a kind of folk form

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