Bolis Pupul Floats Via a Fog of Grief on Letter to Yu

Bolis Pupul Floats Through a Fog of Grief on <i>Letter to Yu</i>
Bolis Pupul Floats Through a Fog of Grief on Letter to Yu

Bolis Pupul – Letter to Yu

Mothers are often the keepers of culture. As the people traditionally tasked with preparing meals, planning social engagements, and maintaining ties with family, they play an especially pivotal role in preserving roots in immigrant families. Producer and musician Bolis Pupul was born in Belgium to a Chinese mother and Belgian father. So when his mother, Yu Wei Wun, died in a car accident in 2008, he lost not only a family member, but also a crucial tie to his Chinese heritage. In 2018, he visited Hong Kong to find where she was born and work on strengthening his ties to her homeland. Afterward, as a way of processing the experience, he wrote a letter that evolved into the opener of his moving new solo debut, Letter to Yu. 

Pupul has grappled with identity in some of his past work—including 2022’s Topical Dancer, a collaboration with Charlotte Adigery. Using slinky beats and dance-ready hooks, that album performs a facade of casualness while actually satirizing respectability politics and the everyday racism that both artists have experienced. His solo project is less structural and whimsical. Instead, Pupul floats through a fog of grief and yearning as he ponders answerless questions: Why did it take him so long to come here? What parts of his mother remain in the city of her birth? Impressionistic images—garlic, mothballs, the color of the sea, the temple around the corner—are peppered throughout. They provide a sense of place and grounding, however fleeting, as Pupul spins through heavy, amorphous thoughts on belonging and loss.

Sonically, the project is more experimental and expansive than Pupul’s earlier work, often pulling back on his usual pristine electro-pop production to make room for Hong Kong field recordings and other people’s voices. This creative choice makes the project feel relational: Pupul is on a quest to understand himself by observing and absorbing the people around him. The synth blips on “Goodnight Mr Yi” twinkle and meander, often sounding like two robots asking each other questions—the instrumentation provides a gentle backdrop to the children’s voices sampled on the track. Similarly, “Cosmic Rendez-Vous” foregrounds an interview with Pupul’s mother over keys that flutter like snowfall. 

Tracks like “Doctor Says” do have grinding, propulsive beats, but they feel less like an invitation to dance than the soundtrack of a mind burrowing inwards. One shining moment of euphoria stands out: On “Completely Half,” Pupul thinks he sees his mother’s face in strangers passing by and regrets not speaking the language better. As he switches between feeling 100% and 50% Chinese, and finding a sense of self-acceptance somewhere in between and beyond, the track builds to a heart-thumping crescendo. These songs never reach catharsis or resolution to their grand queries, but nonetheless find moments of joy in the process of seeking answers. GRADE: B

You can check out Letter to Yu on Bandcamp and elsewhere.


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