WALLGRIN BLURS GEN­RES AND GEN­DERS >>>

The Georgia Straight - - Music - > BY ALEXAN­DER VARTY

In among all the praise Wallgrin 2 is get­ting for their de­but re­lease, Bird/alien, the artist oth­er­wise known as Te­gan Wahlgren is hear­ing one small note of com­plaint: peo­ple want to hear the lyrics more clearly.

“Some­times it seems to frus­trate peo­ple,” the singer, vi­o­lin­ist, and elec­tronic pro­ducer con­firms, check­ing in with the Straight from East Van­cou­ver. “Peo­ple re­ally want to hear the words, and they want to know what I’m say­ing, and some­times I’m like, ‘But I don’t want you to know!’

“For me, the lyrics are the last thing I think of,” Wahlgren adds. “They do be­come im­por­tant, but they’re al­ways the last part of writ­ing, for me. They’re of­ten some­thing that frus­trates me and that takes me a long time to come up with. I think much more in melody than in words.”

This isn’t re­ally a prob­lem. What­ever Bird/alien lacks in clar­ity, it makes up for in mys­tery: the record’s gor­geous blend of acous­tic vi­o­lin, sub­tle elec­tronic tex­tures, and quasil­i­tur­gi­cal singing skirts the bound­ary be­tween the sec­u­lar and the sa­cred in much the same el­e­gant way that Wahlgren, who self-iden­ti­fies as “non­bi­nary”, blurs gen­der roles.

“In one de­scrip­tion of the al­bum, I called it ‘pseu­dore­li­gious’,” Wahlgren says. “I’m kind of try­ing to im­i­tate these tropes of sa­cred mu­sic that I’ve picked up over the years with­out ac­tu­ally hav­ing a per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of grow­ing up with that mu­sic in the con­text that it’s sup­posed to be in.…but I’m also rec­og­niz­ing that I am in the mod­ern world. Like, I’m not try­ing to re-cre­ate some­thing that’s al­ready been done. I’m meld­ing be­ing in­spired by this kind of cer­e­mo­nial past with be­ing very much in the mod­ern world.”

Be­ing mod­ern, how­ever, also in­volves em­brac­ing the en­dur­ing power of myth. Part of Wahlgren’s cre­ative strat­egy is to cloak per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence in the lan­guage of archetype: the harpy and the ban­shee fig­ure promi­nently in two of Bird/alien’s songs, and an­other fear­some crea­ture emerges in a third, “Two-mouthed Woman”.

“That’s based on this crea­ture called the fu­takuchi-onna in Ja­panese mythol­ogy,” Wahlgren ex­plains. “The leg­end goes that there’s this woman who lives with a hus­band who is ei­ther poor or greedy, who doesn’t pro­vide her with enough sus­te­nance and money and stuff, so she gets a se­cond mouth that ap­pears on the back of her head, and this mouth will eat all the rice in their house. In se­cret, when the hus­band isn’t there, it just eats ev­ery­thing. There are many ver­sions of this story. Some of the ver­sions say that the mouth ap­pears af­ter her hus­band ac­ci­den­tally hits her on the back of the head with an axe, which is kind of weird. But this mouth con­sumes so much food, like twice the amount that a nor­mal per­son would eat, so it re­ally gets in the way of their re­la­tion­ship. It’s just this weird thing that the woman can’t con­trol.”

The ban­shee, the harpy, and the fu­takuchi-onna all em­body as­pects of fe­male rage or de­sire, but Wahlgren is less in­ter­ested in ad­vo­cat­ing for fe­male em­pow­er­ment than in ques­tion­ing gen­der it­self. “I go through the world with peo­ple see­ing me as fe­male, which colours my ex­pe­ri­ence of the world, ob­vi­ously,” the 24-year-old mu­si­cian says. “But I’m re­ally in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing why all these mytho­log­i­cal be­ings and crea­tures that I chose to write about are fe­male fig­ures who have been kind of de­mo­nized—lit­er­ally, in some ways. I’m just ques­tion­ing why, so many times, evil or sin­is­ter be­ings are por­trayed as fe­male or fem­i­nine, and what that has to do with the way that peo­ple view gen­der in our mod­ern world.”

Wallgrin and band will host a Cdrelease party for Bird/alien at the Fox Cabaret on Thurs­day (July 5). The artist will also per­form solo as part of the Khat­sahlano Street Party on Satur­day (July 7).

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