Where is the most compelling and innovative music being made right now in Canada? Your first guess might be one of the country’s major urban centres, but a strong argument can be made that Canada’s North is indeed changing the game.
Case in point is Quantum Tangle who, after their 2016 EP Tiny Hands won the Juno for Indigenous Album of the Year, have followed it up with a dynamic full-length debut, Shelter as we go..., released July 7 on Coax Records.
Quantum Tangle combines the wide-ranging artistic visions of Greyson Gritt and Tiffany Ayalik who draw from their respective Anishinaabe-Métis and Inuit backgrounds to create a fusion of old-world sounds and new-world flair. Woven throughout Shelter as we go…, blues riffs, traditional throat singing, and haunting melodies intertwine with hard beats and equally hard-hitting storytelling.
Proudly and boldly displaying their Indigenous roots, Gritt and Ayalik tailor their music to examine systemic racism and colonialism, while offering ways to empower marginalized groups. As vocal advocates for gender-equality and the need for safe-spaces, Quantum Tangle looks back through history to challenge, educate and encourage audiences to be socially aware.
Quantum Tangle performs tonight [July 19] at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and will be at the Canmore Folk Festival, Aug. 4-6. For more info, go to quantumtangle.com
What things did you try to expand upon with the album, compared to the EP?
Grey: We wanted to shift the storytelling into the music. In the past, we have used music to support and bridge our storytelling, so we wanted to flip that and marry the stories, emotion, and music with standalone songs.
Is there a song on the record that you feel best represents your current musical vision?
Tiffany: How do you pick your favourite child? (Laughs) We love them each for different reasons, and each song has their flavour and supports a message we feel passionate about.
It's wonderful that those messages came out in what we believe are very different genres.
Grey: I think it's less about a particular song and more about the elements that link the songs together. I love how layered our songs became during the recording and mixing process.
We began as a performance-based storytelling group, so our pieces were—and are—limited to what we can play and loop on stage. Through the recording, we've been able to create a lot of depth and texture through multiple layers of vocals with both live and virtual instruments.
It's had a great influence on our live performances. I think our current musical vision is producing these anthemic songs that can overtake you with its vocals and beats or drum on the first play, and then get you again once you're tuned into the lyrics.
How would you describe the art scene right now in the North?
Tiffany: There's a lot of amazing work coming out of the North. We have The Jerry Cans from Iqaluit who are touring internationally and who have started a record label to support northern music. They are working hard to make things easier for other talented groups in Nunavut. We love them!
In Yellowknife, the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre has a great mentorship program for emerging performing artists. They have been running it for five years, and Grey was a Mentee for four of those years. They are a tiny team of dedicated and hard-working art-lovers who can support budding musicians on top of everything else a Territorial theatre does.
We owe our Juno win to their fantastic support. Marie Coderre and Treena Riles are the heartbeats of that place, and we have so much love and admiration for them and the rest of their team of technicians, volunteers, board members and staff. Hats off to you all!
In the Yukon, a fantastic tour is taking off in late October. From The North 150 is bringing together artists from the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut for an incredible musical experience. We will be performing in Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Iqaluit, Montreal, Ottawa, and Vancouver, alongside numerous other northern performers. You can learn more here:
What song in your catalogue means the most to you and why?
Grey: I think “Tiny Hands” will always be at the top of that list. It is a song about our grandmothers, and questions we have about the many lives they lived in their short stay on Earth. It's the first song we released, and it still fills our hearts when we hear it.
If you could change anything about the music business, what would it be?
Tiffany: We’d both like to see venues and festivals have mandates and commitments for inclusion, more gender and racial diversity in the tech fields related to music production. And of course all artists should be paid more fairly so that we don't have to tour as much; it becomes hard on one's body, heart and mind.
We would also love to decolonize the planet and see an end to fierce border control. That stuff is scary and a huge barrier for a lot of artists.