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Tidibàbide/Turn Nick Roseblade , February 26th, 2021 09:20

From Algonquin folk songs to electro bangers, the epic new album by Kìzis certainly packs a lot in, finds Nick Roseblade

The last time we heard form Mich Cota she had just released her debut album Kijà/Care. Back in 2017, that record dealt with trauma, oppression – and also love. Now she has re-emerged as Kìzis. In her Algonquin language, Kìzis means ‘Sun’. This is a fitting name to perform under as her music is filled with light vocals that drift over bright melodies. Her latest album Tidibàbide/Turn is fearless and proud, featuring over fifty artists including Beverly Glenn Copeland, Mabe Fratti and Owen Pallet spread over thirty-six tracks and three-hours. Yes. This will be a long ride.

The album opens with ‘Dawemà’, a traditional Algonquin song. It is breath-taking. It shows that Kìzis is proud of her heritage as much as her contemporary identity. On ‘Side of the Road’ Kìzis sings “Love is what keeps me alive” like a mantra over stuttering electronic beats and basslines. By ‘The Exquisite Party Girl Anthem’, track fourteen, my interest is beginning to wane. The final third of the track is effectively just vowels over a Prince-like backing track. ‘Escalimetro’ opens with Algonquin poetry and the sound of the ocean before Balearic vibes and a moombahton beat kicks in. It’s a gentle, banging ballad. ‘Kasaigiyan: I Love You’ speaks about tolerance in a way I’ve seldom heard set to music. Its ideas are intoxicating. ‘Sister Flower 2 (4 Spirit)’ is a political message about fighting for peace backed by a pumping techno backing track. ‘No Canada’ speaks about first nation people and how their lands have been taken and exhausted by mining. The line “Your way is killing me” pretty much sums up every first nation struggle around the world. This is probably the most personal and standout track on the album. ‘In the Rivers’ is another glorious piece of music. Starting off as a tender ballad it gradually builds to a full-on neon pop wonder. The transition happens so gracefully you don’t realise what is happening until the glow sticks are out. The album is bookended with traditional Algonquin songs. During ‘Nika’, as the voices rise and fall, you start to get a sense of what Kìzis is trying to say about history, tradition, and the future.

As with most double, triple, and quadruple albums there are some great moments in there, but there is also a lot of chaff. I’m reminded of the line Jeff Goldblum says in Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should”. Yes, you can record thirty-six tracks and release them as an album, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Kìzis has made a brave album that speaks about what it’s like to live as a trans and Indigenous person. The songs are painfully personal at times. Despite its dayglo beats this is a challenging and important album, but it feels like there are at least three different albums in there. One is hi-octane dayglo electroclash pop, another is R&B ballads, there’s an Algonquin folk album, and maybe an even more outlandish and leftfield album too. Any of these individual releases would have been more satisfying and had a greater impact than the unwieldy Tidibàbide/Turn. Which is disappointing, as Tidibàbide/Turn is a very personal, and important, album.