With a sound steeped in haunting northern beauty, Tiffany Ayalik (of Juno-winning duo Quantum Tangle) and her sister Kayley Mackay have joined forces with Ruby Singh and his arsenal of eclectic rhythms and beats to form PIQSIQ (pronounced “pilk-silk”). The group’s debut EP, Altering The Timeline, out now on Coax Records, is a five-song collection of otherworldly melodies built on ancient Inuit throat songs.
True to throat singing’s traditional form, each track is an improvised plethora inspired by the soundscapes around us and infused with the guttural emotions that deliver the human experience in all its pain and glory. Together they create an experience that leaves the listener enthralled with the infinite possible answers to the question “what is the meaning of life?”
The project was sparked during a spontaneous jam session next to the Bow River at 2018 the Calgary Folk Music Festival. As the sisters' throat sang, Ruby beat-boxed and ideas began to flow from there. Two short months later, the trio converged at Vancouver’s Afterlife Studio where they put together the sounds that would become Altering the Timeline.
For more information go to piqsiq.com.
What makes PIQSIQ different from your other musical projects and what songs on the EP are you most proud of?
Kayley: The songs we create for PIQSIQ are very improvisational and don't have lyrics. It’s exclusively rhythmic and melodic. The quality is very ethereal and other-worldly. I think my favourite track is “Kuugaruk.” Every time I hear it I want to dance.
Tiffany: My favourite song on it right now is “Ahiani: Elsewhere.” Musically, it’s really rooting and grounded but then some of the vocals are quite soaring, and they really do take you elsewhere.
How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?
Kayley: I have always been drawn to the darkness and its seductive appeal. So much happens in our world during the sunless hours, and a Northern winter is intensely dark. There is a beauty in that darkness that I have always felt quite comfortable exploring. This aesthetic has stayed with me since childhood and continues to inspire me in many ways.
Tiffany: I love storytelling and growing up in the North surrounded by incredible storytellers has been at the core of how I want to be as an artist. As an actor and when singing lyrically with Quantum Tangle I can use words and lyrics to tell a story, but with PIQSIQ is has been a beautiful study to convey feeling with just sound.
What's been the most significant change in your life over the past year?
Kayley: There was a lot of death in my life this year. Both my grandfathers passed, and I had a near death experience after each passing. I don't know why the algorithms played out that way, but it had a profound impact on my ideas about how much time I have and how to spend it.
Tiffany: My sister joined Quantum Tangle. I love her and [Quantum Tangle co-founder] Greyson [Gritt] more than I understand and now we get to create together and perform together. It has been so amazing to be able to have Kayley in this world with us.
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
Tiffany: Kayley and I used to spend a lot of time on the land, camping for long periods. We loved to tell each other stories and sing. We would do the throat songs we knew, and we would also create strange compositions and try to create songs to sing specifically in cannon. We would paddle out in a canoe as children, out to some far corner of a lake and sing with each other, taking breaks to fish, listen to the loons and strain our eyes to see if that was a bear in the distance or just a stout rock.
What's your best touring story?
Kayley: We were recently in Washington and had an outrageous time at the The National Gallery of Art. Some shenanigans were definitely had in the Italian Gothic section of the gallery. It was the stuff Classical Art Memes are made of—pure gold. A few of the moments were immortalized on Instagram.