by Jim Di Gioia

October 30, 2019

Like water itself, nêhiyawak’s nipiy is a complex, living flow of thoughtful human expression.

Water, like all other fluids, is defined by its ability to “flow”, which essentially means it takes the shape of whatever containers its in (think water travelling through a pipe or being poured from a pitcher). Though there are multiple levels on which nipiy (Cree for water) is an appropriate title for nêhiyawak’s debut full-length, it’s the idea of filling the space you’re in that springs to mind when listening to the amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton) band’s expressive and dynamic album.

From the slow trickle of the instrumental opener“kisiskâciwanisîpiy pêyak”, a song inspired by and named for the North Saskatchewan River, nêhiyawak lets its sound find its own way and take a unique form. A post-rock, shoegaze wall-of-sound eventually emerges as “kisiskâciwanisîpiy pêyak” reaches the open waters of “copper”. First heard on their 2018 EP, starlight, “copper” takes on a new form in nipiy’s pole position;  Matthew Cardinal (bass and synths) Kris Harper (vocals and guitars), and Marek Tyler (drums) vibrant playing fills the room like a living, breathing entity. Just as water is an essential building block of life that wraps and surrounds other important elements for our world’s eco-diversity, nipiy’s music becomes the vehicle for Harper’s powerful and compelling lyrics. 

On songs like “open window” and “disappear,” Harper deconstructs colonialism, addressing the Sixties Scoop and indigenous disappearances in both Canada and Honduras with an unflinching yet thoughtful tone. Like erosion over time, nêhiyawak’s music and words reshape the rock-hard stereotypes and settler-mindset that’s framed the perception of indigenous people all the while finding a course through which the sound and their story can travel. Like water itself, nipiy is a complex, living flow of thoughtful human expression.

Jim Di Gioia

Jim founded the music blog Quick Before It Melts in 2006 and was its principal writer until 2016, when its decade-long run ended 10 years to the day it started. DOMINIONATED is its spiritual successor. Jim currently serves as a Polaris Music Prize jurist and Prism Prize jurist.
Jim Di Gioia

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