Kìzis’ music takes its shape from life’s sprawling contours. Kìzis was raised in an intensely religious home to a white mother and an indigenous father in Southern Ontario. She belongs to the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, and attending pow wows as a child formed a significant part of her early inspiration. She later moved to Montreal and formed the indie-pop band Archery Guild. As a trans Two-Spirit person, she says, “Sometimes it’s difficult to show who I am, but I use my music and performance to help elaborate my essence.”
Her solo work, first as Mìch Cota and now as Kìzis, weaves the deeply personal with a desire to reach outwards. On her 2018 album Kijà / Care, she fleshed out lush synth pop with strings and experimental vocal processing, offering self-love and interpersonal connection as means of moving beyond trauma. Clocking in at 36 tracks and three and a half hours long, her newest album, Tidibàbide / Turn, is a joyful proclamation of presence. Kìzis takes the lessons in vulnerability from Kijà / Care and spins them into a record that stretches and sustains itself with Kìzis’ tenderness and the musical support of some 60-odd collaborators.
Tidibàbide / Turn drifts fluidly between genres. Molding traditional Algonquin influences into techno, synth pop, and heart-swelling strings, Kìzis lets the music meander where it likes. Tracks like “Dawemà,” “Nika,” “Okàdeniganàtig,” and “Moswa” feature Algonquin drumming accompanying a chorus of voices that move between Algonquin and English. Kìzis rewrites the Canadian national anthem in “No Canada,” singing mournfully over a steady drumbeat: “No Canada/No home on Native land/Your patriot lust/expecting us to bend…/Your way is killing me.” Elsewhere, the defiant techno of “Amanda” and meandering electro pop of cuts like “PERSONALITY!” and “That’s My Dream (FAMILY = COMMUNITY)” pay tribute to the sense of community Kìzis has found in queer party spaces. Her music can be dissonant and amorphous, but she can also be intimate and conversational, slipping into spoken-word cadences to share secrets in such a way that it sounds like she’s revealing them for the first time.
There’s a defiant spirit in Tidibàbide / Turn’s colossal proportions and ever-changing nature. It emerges in force in the sprawling, four-part “Sister Flower,” which she has described as “an audible dissertation on empowerment.” “Sister Flower (One Comes to Us)” is held together by a forceful 4/4 beat but moves gracefully through grandiose strings, electro pop, and spoken word; “Sister Flower 2 (4 Spirit)” accelerates and decelerates at will, changing the terms of the game as it plays. On the 16-minute “Sister Flower (Honor and Celebration),” Kìzis’ voice comes in and out of focus amidst a patchwork of muttering and whispering. As she reels off impressionistic images (“Slide off my shoes/Lay on my back/And let a lizard play with you”), a hissed chant emerges from the mix: “a cacophonic symphony.”
But it’s a gentle cacophony. The for-us-by-us ethos—prominent Canada-based trans musicians like Elle Barbara and Beverly Glenn-Copeland are among the album’s collaborators—forges a feeling of tender togetherness, a charm against inhospitable surroundings. Despite its length, Tidibàbide / Turn isn’t a forbidding listen. Throughout its many transmutations, Kìzis’ voice is a guiding light. Her music feels both formally adventurous and spiritually nourishing. As she intones in “Brianna,” “I’m moving forward/How do I move forward now?/I climb/I run I sing.”
Buy: Rough Trade
(Pitchfork earns a commission from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.)
Catch up every Saturday with 10 of our best-reviewed albums of the week. Sign up for the 10 to Hear newsletter here.