A few weeks ago, when Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq won the Polaris Prize with her album Animism, Canada’s annual award for the country’s best full-length album of the year, it got me curious as to what other talent might be found in the North – both in Canada and beyond. I mean, that’s some pretty strong Arctic fire-power to be able to beat out Arcade Fire, Drake, and Mac DeMarco, among others. Tanya Tagaq, who is from Nunavut, admits, “It feels like I dial in another frequency. I go to places where I surrender to all that terrifies and excites me.” It sounds like it from the track below.
Tanya Tagaq – Uja
We follow up with someone who was fundamental in Tagaq’s development and who is today, likely the most renowned living Northerner worldwide – Björk. In fact, Bjork involved Tanya Tagaq in her album Medusa and they also toured together. Sounds like fun, judging from the one Bjork concert I was fortunate enough to see. Just posted a few months ago on her Soundcloud, this track Sídasta ég is a B-side taken from the Big Time Sensuality single, originally released in 1993. I remember how much her debut solo album impacted on me and I wish I had known about this song earlier. Bet that Bjork also inspired a whole generation of northern performers.
Björk – Sídasta ég
Lay Low, a.k.a. Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir, released her first album back in 2006. She is not only known for her impressive spin on country, blues, and roots music, but also because she’s successful pulled off 2 other impressive feats: 1) releasing a nice series of Dolly Parton covers, and 2) for her LP, Brostin Strengur, which is recorded entirely in Icelandic. The album essentially combines poetry written by Icelandic women over the last 200 years with unique acoustic-guitar based compositions.
Lay Low – I Forget It’s There
Rock quintet Mammút got an early start, winning a national band competition while still in their teens. In 2008, the group released their first album Karkari, loaded with potential, combining a tasteful blend of heavier rock and downtuned guitars with unexpected twists and theatrical vocals from their singer Kata.
Mammút – Rauðilækur
We move eastwards from Iceland to Norway, where we discovered Sleepyard. Not only does this track sound like something straight out of the coolest 60s/70s soundtrack with some impressive ‘sublime trip’ moments, but it has been remixed by one of the most decorated personages in the history of psych rock (especially shoegaze) music – Creation Records co-founder Joe Foster. Enjoy some Norwegian psych glitter – this one even comes complete with a Mexican psychedelic mariachi effect.
Sleepyard – Dear Melody (Joe Foster Remix)
According to Last FM, Star Horse is a shoegaze/dream pop band from Stockholm, Sweden. There are four members: Andreas Ryberg (guitar, vocals), Maja Thunberg (guitar, vocals), Stas Neilyk (bass) and Samuel Hemmilä (drums). We don’t know much more about them, other than that they make fantastic music and that they have 4 EPs out before releasing a double A-side single and another single this year. This track comes from the former Don’t Get Closer // 100 Eyes, released in June.
Star Horse – Don’t Get Closer
Flying Cape Experience are intriguing, as much for their music as their ability to stay out of the limelight for so long. This Finnish duo really are fantastic. Easily material of 4AD caliber – no less than Daughter, for instance. While their song Morphosis seems to be their most popular, this track The Cage has also been running through my head since I heard it. Score one (a big one) for Finland.
Flying Cape Experience – The Cage
This next one came as a bit of a surprise to me, namely because FRFP are from Novosibirsk, the so-called capital of Siberia. Very odd to imagine such nice post-rock shoegaze being made in the middle of such a vast land and distant from any metropolis whatsoever (if you don’t count Novosibirsk, which is a pretty large city itself). Even the Red Bull Academy has recognized this song, posting it on their own Soundcloud. This track comes from their self-titled album FRFP, released in 2012.
FRFP – Crystallization Point
We come full circle across the Bering Strait to North America, where we started. Last but not least, we can’t end a circumpolar journey of progressive music without mentioning Ummagma, which co-habitates between the Yukon and Ukraine. Just as we began with a personal connection between Tagaq’s Nunavut and Bjork’s Iceland, we end with a personal connection between FRFP’s Russia and the Yukon’s Ummagma – frontwoman Shauna McLarnon spent a few years in Siberia, where she “found her voice”. Ummagma appears to unique in northern Canada, blending so many (all eclectic) genres.
Ummagma – The Road to Lees
We leave you on a sweet note, until the next playlist. Should you have any suggestions of northern (Arctic/ sub-Arctic) bands you think we should have a listen to, Tweet us at @TheRecordStache or post a good sound link on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/therecordstache