Dis­com­fort and Re­lief

Exclaim! - - REVIEWS - LAURA STAN­LEY

ROCK

nêhiyawak

starlight nêhiyawak’s doesn’t re­ally sound like any­thing else re­leased this year. Across the EP’s five tracks, the Amiskwaciy (Ed­mon­ton-area) band cre­ate dense sound­scapes that do not let up. The songs touch on shoegaze and post-rock sounds (nêhiyawak use the de­scrip­tor “moc­casingaze” in their Twit­ter bio) but the trio’s mu­sic doesn’t quite fit in ei­ther genre. And that’s the point. nêhiyawak are not try­ing to em­u­late any spe­cific type of mu­sic, but in­stead, the in­stru­men­tals of Marek Tyler (drums) and Matthew Car­di­nal (synths, bass) sup­port the words of vo­cal­ist and gui­tarist Kris Harper — ris­ing and fall­ing with his emo­tional pitches. The re­sult is a sound that’s dis­tinctly their own.

One of the strik­ing qual­i­ties about starlight is the in­ter­play be­tween the thick, shad­owy film that cov­ers the EP and Harper’s reedy vo­cals. On “open win­dow,” for ex­am­ple, Car­di­nal’s synths swirl around Harper like a men­ac­ing sum­mer wind, but Harper’s voice doesn’t get con­sumed. In­stead he is swept up to higher ground for us to hear him bet­ter. Lyri­cally, nêhiyawak’s EP dis­man­tles colo­nial ide­olo­gies. There are songs about the geno­cide of Indige­nous peo­ple, the var­i­ous im­pacts of re­source ex­trac­tion, and so much more. When Harper asks “How long have we been here?” on the EP’s stand­out track “som­nam­bu­list,” it feels like a bit­ing rhetori- cal ques­tion. These are songs of the past, present and fu­ture. While starlight acts like a teaser for an up­com­ing LP, nêhiyawak still man­age to show how pow­er­ful they are in this brief out­ing. (Arts & Crafts)

Did you all have a sim­i­lar vi­sion for your sound?

Tyler: Right away, some­thing felt unique and dis­tinct about it.

Harper: I think we were just play­ing what we all knew and loved, and it just came across like that.

Is there any­thing spe­cific that you want lis­ten­ers to take away from starlight?

Harper: There’s a lan­guage here that’s hop­ing to bring peo­ple to a par­tic­u­lar point, some maybe of dis­com­fort, but oth­ers to re­lief. This is stuff that’s maybe more of­ten spo­ken of within our fam­i­lies, but not nec­es­sar­ily in the fam­i­lies of every­one in Canada or any other coun­try.

Tyler: I think about it as a process. I want peo­ple to hear the process and the process for me is that it has given me an op­por­tu­nity to speak to my fam­ily, my mom, and learn from her, and so it has been a good process of learn­ing for me. I’m see­ing that peo­ple are be­com­ing open and avail­able to that process as well, and that con­ver­sa­tion.

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