The days in the NWT are getting shorter.
The night is gobbling up more and more of the hours, and the Sun has taken to hiding behind the Arctic horizon. Soon, whole days in many parts of the territory will be consumed by darkness.
For Yellowknife sisters and bandmates Tiffany Ayalik and Kayley Inuksuk Mackay, this isn’t an inevitability to dread.
“Inuit are so masterfully practiced at balancing the light and the dark. You learn not to put a value or a judgement on light and dark,” Ayalik explained.
“There’s nothing good or bad about light and dark, especially from an Arctic perspective. We need to learn how to find balance in our lives.”
Ayalik and Inuksuk Mackay – who perform together as PIQSIQ – seek to strike that balance with a new album released via Bandcamp on Friday.
The group’s third album is entitled Taaqtuq Ubluriaq: Dark Star. The record was recorded at Monarch Studios in Vancouver earlier this year.
It features seven tracks, each performed and written by the sisters, and weaves storytelling with soundscapes, hip-hop rhythms, and Inuit throat-singing.
‘There’s a power in darkness’
What started as the potential for a Halloween-themed single soon blossomed into an entire EP, the two said, bolstered by creative energy bottled up during this year’s pandemic.
“The story is an exploration of the boundaries of the human experience,” Inuksuk Mackay explained. “How far you can push that and exploring what’s beyond.”
Returning to the album’s theme, Ayalik said: “Part of the colonization hangover that we’re experiencing is all love and light, love and light, and light, light, light… there’s an unfair weight and an unfair morality that’s put on light as being good, when that isn’t necessarily true.
“And if that’s true, it doesn’t mean dark is bad. There are light and dark things in everybody and that they don’t necessarily mean good and bad. There is a beauty, comfort, and power in darkness, as well.
“This is about a returning to self, and this is about a rebalancing of those things that are around us.”
She added, laughing confidently: “It’s some of our best work yet – I can say that right now.”
Inuksuk Mackay agreed. She even has evidence to substantiate the claim.
“My eldest son is our biggest critic, and he said it’s our best music yet,” she said. “So there you have it.”
(Ayalik and Inuksuk Mackay aren’t the only Yellowknife musicians to release new music this week. Baby Brian, known for his honky-tonk tunes, has published debut album Pike People.)
With the new album released, PIQSIQ will hit the virtual stage for a Halloween show.
The pair recently filmed a performance – without an audience – in the Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, a venue Inuksuk Mackay describes as “very old,” “Gothic-looking,” and “absolutely stunning.”
Prospective audience members can purchase tickets through PIQSIQ’s website to access a Vimeo video from October 31 to November 1.
The sisters said they are thrilled to be releasing the album before Halloween, so people can celebrate the spooky season with their music.
“I think that’s something we always loved growing up and continue to love in our homes with our families today,” Inuksuk Mackay said of the holiday. “It’s just a departure from reality, and the possibility of what else is there.
“The freedom to explore your darker natures has always been kind-of appealing to us.”
Ayalik said it is “the most wonderful time of the year for PIQSIQ.”
“If people want to be listening to a beautiful, dark, little-bit-spooky, scary story, and jamming out to some tunes, I just hope that this is a really fun, beautiful way to be celebrating this season.”
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