I always like it when people sucker me into a misjudgment, because it tends to expose the lazy assumptions we can all drift into making, which are the first steps down the road to becoming very stupid.
Foonyap supported Loch Lomond at the Slaughtered Lamb last Tuesday in London at a gig in London rendered almost entirely barren when half the bill, including the headliners, were forced to pull out for volcano-related reasons. Foonyap is a side project by the violin player in Woodpigeon, and she took the stage like a nice stereotypical indie-girl: not really looking the crowd head on, telling tales of songs being borne of inner self-loathing and wearing a dress which paired the slightly eccentric with the slightly twee whilst still being quite pretty. Her first song was lovely – pretty, again, see where I’m going with this? – a solo ballad in which she accompanied herself with the plainest of strums on an electric ukulele.
We’ve all been to enough alt-folk gigs in our time that I doubt I would have been alone in unthinkingly allowing Foonyap to slip drowsily into a nice, comfortable pigeonhole in my subconscious with barely so much as a deliberate thought about the whole thing. Even the sound guy stepped away from his desk to sip his beer with the other ten or so guests, believing his work was done.
By the time the second song, Gabriel Moody, started, however, it was clear that things were not quite that straightforward. The Chinese folk (or so I assume anyway, but am sadly too ignorant to know) plucking of the violin was built into an oddly assembled roll of staccato pecks using a loop pedal, before a layer of melodramatic wail was swept out over the top of it. To this rather beautiful collage was added a suddenly immensely powerful voice, which sent the sound guy scurrying back to his desk, before the bowed violin descended through atonal scrape and beautiful tragedy down to silence once more.
As songs go it was a gorgeous combination of the delicate and lovely with a tornado of powerful emotions, and the carfeul dance between experimental weirdness and traditional beauty served to neatly shatter any lasting illusions that this music bore much more than a passing resemblance to the stuff I had so casually lumped it in with after the first few minutes of the gig.
Listening to The Darling EP, which I bought immediately, the recorded versions don’t quite have the wildness of the live performance, and there maybe isn’t all that much real weirdness in there. But there is nevertheless a lot of very, very interesting stuff going on over the space of three songs and if that experimental streak can be encouraged I think this young lady might very well end up making music I like an awful, awful lot. Very promising indeed.