Discomfort and Relief
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.