Rebecca Foon

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Rebecca Foon
Saltland Performing.jpg
Background information
Also known as Beckie Foon, Saltland
Born (1978-12-13) 13 December 1978 (age 39)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Origin Montreal, Quebec
Genres Post-rock, avant-garde music
Occupation(s) Musician, singer, cellist, composer
Instruments Cello, vocals
Years active 1996–present
Labels Constellation Records, Fat Cat, Madrona
Associated acts A Silver Mt. Zion, Esmerine, Saltland, Hrsta, The Mile-End Ladies String Auxiliary, Set Fire To Flames

Rebecca Foon, also credited as Beckie Foon, is a Canadian cellist, vocalist, and composer from Montreal, Quebec. Foon currently records under the alias Saltland and is a member and co-founder of the Juno Award-winning modern chamber ensemble Esmerine. She has also been a member of several groups associated with the post rock, experimental and chamber music scene of Montreal and New York City, including Set Fire to Flames, A Silver Mt. Zion, Colin Stetson’s Gorecki Symphony of Sorrow ensemble and the instrumental string/piano/accordion-based trio Fifths of Seven. Esmerine's Turkish folk influenced album Dalmak, released in 2013, was awarded the Juno Award for Instrumental Album of the Year in 2014. In 2013 she released her first Saltland album, which called "a captivating combination of genres from dream pop to chamber music to ambient and shoegaze."[1]

Early life[edit]

Rebecca Foon was born in 1978 in Canada, and raised in Vancouver.[2]

Music career[edit]

Early years[edit]

In 1996, Foon moved to Montreal from Vancouver when she was 17, and soon became involved in the city's DIY music scene.[3] She has been a member of several groups associated with the post rock, experimental and chamber music scene of Montreal, including a number of musicians who had been involved with the local post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor.[4][5] Among her earliest projects, in 1995, Foon teamed up with Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade Sunset Rubdown, and Moonface) and Rachel Levine (Cakelk), forming the instrumental string/piano/accordion-based trio Fifths of Seven.[6]

A Silver Mt. Zion[edit]

Foon (center) playing cello with Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra in 2007

She soon began playing cello and composing with Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, a band that formed in Montreal in 1999. Foon joined in 2000, when the band expanded from a trio into a sextet. Foon plays on the band's second album, released in 2001 on Constellation Records: Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward. The minimalist album was well received by music critics, with Allmusic giving it 4.5/5 stars,[7] and Pitchfork Media giving it 7.7/10.[8] The band took its first extensive tour in early 2001, traveling throughout Europe. That year Foon began playing in the associated band Set Fire to Flames as well.

The next Silver Mt. Zion album saw no change in the core line-up, excluding the inclusion of a makeshift choir. "This Is Our Punk-Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing was released in 2003. The album was essentially created as a requiem for open and abandoned spaces in Montreal, as well as for similar loss and decay around the world, due to either urban development or military action.[9] Foon continued to perform live with the band while she began working on other projects. In 2008, Silver Mt. Zion toured Europe and North America. That summer Foon and several other members resigned from the band.[10]

Set Fire to Flames[edit]

In 2001, she became a member of the Montreal post-rock band Set Fire to Flames. The band released two albums before it split in 2003, and many of their tracks are very minimalist in nature, filled with ambient noise and various other non-musical sound effects, juxtaposed or combined with instrumental music.[11] 2001 saw her contribute to the band's debut Sings Reign Rebuilder. The album was recorded in a century old house apparently bound for destruction. As such, several sounds usually edited out of the recording process, including creaking floors, paper shuffling and outside noises such as police sirens were left intact on the final album. The album met with a glowing reception in the press; receiving 9/10 stars from Pitchfork Media,[12] 4/5 from Allmusic,[13] and 4.5/5 from Sputnikmusic.[14]

Two years later in 2003, she again contributed to Telegraphs in Negative/Mouths Trapped in Static by Set Fire to Flames. Recorded in a barn in Ontario, the release utilizes many different instruments, including guitars, basses, strings, horns, glockenspiel, marimba, bass clarinet, saw, cymbalon, hurdy-gurdy, music boxes, modified electronics, and contact microphones. The album was even more experimental than the previous, and met with mixed reviews from magazines such as Sputnik.[15]

Founding of Esmerine[edit]

Foon (far left) playing cello with Esmerine

In 2001, Foon co-founded the chamber rock group Esmerine along with percussionist Bruce Cawdron. The two had met while recording the debut album of Set Fire To Flames.[16] However, instead of using the guitar-focused sound of their other projects, the duo initially focused on percussion and cello, drawing on minimalist classical music and chamber music. The band initially performed their original music in gigs around Montreal.[16]

Esmerine released their debut album If Only a Sweet Surrender to the Nights to Come Be True in 2003.[17] Allmusic gave it 4/5 stars and called it "a sublime chamber rock album," stating "A French female name meaning quiet and sensitive, Esmerine is a fitting moniker for the overall sound."[18] They released their second album Aurora in 2005. Afterwards Foon dedicated more time to Thee Silver Mt. Zion, though she continued to periodically perform with Esmerine in Montreal, often bringing in guest artists or collaborating with other groups.[16]

Recent band albums[edit]

The string/piano/accordion-based trio Fifths of Seven, which Foon had been performing with since 2004, released its first album in 2005: Spry from Bitter Anise Folds met with a positive reception.[6] 2005 saw Foon contribute cello to a number of other albums as well. Among these were From Cells of Roughest Air by The Mile End Ladies String Auxiliary, and Horses in the Sky by A Silver Mt. Zion. The album was the band's first to include lyrics on every track, with Foon contributing to the vocals, also helping mix the recording.[19] Before leaving A Silver Mt. Zion in 2008, she recorded cello and vocals for their 2008 album 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons. It met with a mixed review in Pitchfork and a glowing review in Allmusic[20] and other magazines such as Sonic Frontiers.[21]

As Esmerine, Foon and Bruce Cawdron began writing new music together in earnest in 2010.[16] For their third album La Lechuza, two new members joined the group; Sarah Pagé, a harp player, and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Barr.[16] Released in 2011, La Lechuza was listed as one of the top ten underground records of the year in Mojo.[22]

La Lechuza is dedicated to Lhasa de Sela, a dear friend of the band's, who died of breast cancer in Montreal on 1 January 2010. The band collaborated with Patrick Watson on the album and released a song entitled Snow Day for Lhasa, as well as created a site – – dedicated in loving memory to Lhasa. After Barr and Page became occupied with their other projects, Esmerine added two new members to their touring lineup: percussionist Jamie Thomson and multi-instrumentalist Brian Sanderson. After a number of live performances the quartet began writing new material in early 2012.[16] After performing in Istanbul, the band was invited to return for an artist residency later that year.[23] After turning a rented loft into a makeshift recording studio,[24] the band recorded for two days in Istanbul[25] with Turkish musicians.[26] The album, Dalmak, was released in 2013 and awarded Instrumental Album of the Year at the Juno Awards of 2014. The Line of Best Fit gave it 7.5/10 stars, saying "they ultimately craft gorgeous, sparkling experimental noises that blur the line between post-rock, minimalist electronica and Turkish folk."[27]

Collaborations, soundtracks[edit]

She has had guest appearances on albums such as Just Another Ordinary Day by Patrick Watson in 2003, Lesbians on Ecstasy in 2004, Nisht Azoy by Black Ox Orkestar in 2006, and Do You Like Rock Music? by British Sea Power in 2011. Also in 2011, she was involved with the film and music project National Parks Project by Last Gang Records. Foon has performed with a range of musicians including Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, Patti Smith, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and has composed for various film soundtracks including Shannon Walsh's feature-length documentary H2Oil with co-founder of Constellation Records, Ian Ilavsky.[3] The film is a documentary on the extraction of oil from tar sands in Alberta.[3]


Founding, I Thought It Was Us But It Was All of Us (2013)

In 2010 she began working on solo material, enlisting the help of Jamie Thompson on percussion and programming.[3] Handling vocals and cello, among the sounds Foon focused on were drone, no wave, improv, dream pop and minimalism, and the project Saltland was formed. After several years this culminated in the release of an LP for Constellation Records in 2013 under the name Saltland, entitled I Thought It Was Us But It Was All of Us.[28] Among the guest musicians on the album were Sarah Neufeld, Colin Stetson, Laurel Sprengelmeyer of Little Scream, and Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire.[3]

"This album is about the power of community. It weaves in themes of sustainability, climate change, environmental degradation, urban agriculture and hope for new beginnings and fostering a sustainable path forward together. Images of salt-land deserts and innovative urban designs, like the High Line in New York were on my mind while composing this record. I was also thinking about Downtown Eastside, Vancouver, which is where I grew up."
— Saltland[2]

All of the songs were constructed from cello loops.[29] About the themes, Foon stated she was trying to create a "sonic landscape" that would allow her to explore themes such as urban landscapes, urban poverty and youth homelessness, environmental issues, and "the control/criminalisation of protest and political action, which is a huge issue in general and particularly in Montreal these days." About the mood of the compositions, "I don't consider the music to be reductively dark and cold, I was really seeking to hold a lot of different tones and feelings in tension: clear-eyed observation, reverie, meditation, activism/agency – and hope and warmth too. It’s not a pretty world these days, but I wanted to also leave the listener with a sense of hope."[29]

Reception called it "a captivating combination of genres from dream pop to chamber music to ambient and shoegaze."[1] The Skinny gave it 4/5 stars and a positive review, calling her vocals "hypnotic" and stating the project "eschews the overwrought melodrama of [Thee Silver Mt. Zion and Set Fire To Flames] for an intricate and understated approach, blending soft, tender vocals with strings, drones and electronica."[28] According to Beats Per Minutes, "The songs on this record seem to revel in the evocation of tangible places. Each song seems to unfold into a vast landscape of dust-covered hills and barren horizons-all encased in a gauzy analog haze."[29]

In 2013–2014, Saltland toured with Moonface throughout Canada and the United States.[3]

Personal life[edit]

As of 2014 Foon is based in Montreal.[3] She is an environmental and social activist and a member of Sustainability Solutions Group, a "sustainability consulting cooperative."[3] Foon co-founded along with Jesse Paris Smith, Pathway to Paris, an international concert series bringing together musicians, writers and environmental activists to help raise consciousness and create action in support of a robust international climate agreement.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Nominated work Category Result
2014 Juno Awards Dalmak by Esmerine Instrumental Album of the Year Won
2016 Juno Awards Lost Voices by Esmerine Instrumental Album of the Year Lost


Solo material[edit]

Albums by Rebecca Foon as Saltland
Year Album title Release details
2017 A Common Truth
(by Saltland)
  • Released: 31 March 2017
  • Label: Constellation
  • Format: CD, vinyl, digital
2013 I Thought It Was Us But It Was All of Us
(by Saltland)
  • Released: 14 May 2013
  • Label: Constellation
  • Format: CD, vinyl, digital

With groups[edit]

A Silver Mt. Zion
Set Fire to Flames
The Mile End Ladies String Auxiliary
  • 2005: From Cells of Roughest Air
Fifths of Seven
  • 2005: Spry from Bitter Anise Folds

Guest appearances[edit]

Incomplete list of credits for Rebecca Foon
Yr Release title Primary artist(s) Label Notes, role
2003 Just Another Ordinary Day Patrick Watson Self-released Cello
2004 Stand With the Stillness of the Day Elizabeth Anka Vajagic Constellation Cello
Lesbians on Ecstasy Lesbians on Ecstasy Alien8 Cello
If Night is a Weed and Day Grows Less Mitchell Akiyama SubRosa Cello
2005 Stem Stem in Electro Hrsta Constellation Cello
2006 Nisht Azoy Black Ox Orkestar Cello
Evangelista Carla Bozulich Cello
2007 Return to the Sea Islands Rough Trade Cello
North Star Deserter Vic Chesnutt Constellation Cello
2008 Hello Voyageur Evangelista Cello
2009 Hot Wax Grant Hart Con d'Or Cello
Against the Day Land of Kush Constellation Cello
2010 Cloak and Cipher Land of Talk Saddle Creek Cello
2011 Do You Like Rock Music? British Sea Power Rough Trade Cello
National Parks Project (LP and film) Various Last Gang Composition, cello
The Golden Record Little Scream Secretly Canadian Cello
2013 The Big Mango Land of Kush Constellation Cello


  • 2013: "My Little Underground" (short animation by Elise Simard)
  • 2012: "National Parks Project"
  • 2012: "The Kiss" (short animation by Eva Cvijanovic)
  • 2008: H2Oil (feature film directed by Shannon Walsh)[3]

Featured on[edit]

  • 2014: Evolution of a Criminal (A Film by Darius Clark Monroe)
  • 2011: A Walk into the Sea (documentary directed by Esther Robinson)
  • 2010: Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life (short animation by Chris Lavis & Maciek Szczerbowski)
  • 2007: Madame Tutli-Putli (stop motion-animated short film by Chris Lavis & Maciek Szczerbowski)

Further reading[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Saltland Review, Exclaim!
  2. ^ a b Dedeoglu, J. Hakan (2013). "The Constellation interviews No.2: Saltland". Bantmag. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "About". Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  4. ^ Saltland Review, The Quietus
  5. ^ Saltland Review, Tiny Mix Tapes
  6. ^ a b Yu, Kenneth (2005). "Spry from Bitter Anise Folds". Popmatters. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  7. ^ Jurek, Thom (23 October 2001). " Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  8. ^ Haywood, Brad (1 November 2001). "Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward review". Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  9. ^ ""This Is Our Punk-Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing, Info". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  10. ^ retrieved 15 November 2009 Archived 19 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ "Eclipse Booking – Jackie-O Motherfucker". Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  12. ^ Haywood, Brad (12 November 2001). "Set Fire to Flames review". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  13. ^ Jurek, Thom (15 October 2001). "Sings Reign Rebuilder review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  14. ^ Shaw, S. G. (2 May 2007). "Set Fire to Flames review". Sputnik Music. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  15. ^ Shaw, S. G. (12 June 2007). "Set Fire to Flames review". Sputnik Music. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f "Info". Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  17. ^ Jeffries, David. "Esmerine: Bio and Discography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  18. ^ Jeffries, David (20 May 2003). "If Only a Sweet Surrender to the Nights to Come Be True Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  19. ^ Dusted Magazine review of Horses in the Sky
  20. ^ Mesenov, Sergey (10 March 2008). "13 Blues for Thirteen Moons". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  21. ^ "at". 9 July 2011. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  22. ^ "La Lechuza". Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  23. ^ Vogt, Adam (2013). "Dalmak review". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  24. ^ "Interview: Esmerine". Echotic Music. 3 December 2013. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  25. ^ Dedeoglu, J. Hakan (2014). "The Constellation Interviews no. 1. Esmerine". Bantmag. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  26. ^ Cowart, Geoff (9 December 2013). "Q&A: Esmerine". Music OMH. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  27. ^ Day, Laurence (27 August 2013). "Esmerine – Dalmak". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  28. ^ a b Saltland Review, The Skinny
  29. ^ a b c Pickard, Joshua (2014). "Introducing: Saltland". Beats Per Minutes. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 

External links[edit]