Beatrice Deer's 'SHIFTING' Is a Multilingual Merger of Darkness and Light
Published Dec 08, 2021Montreal-based singer-songwriter Beatrice Deer understands how to merge opposite worlds to birth a fresh, inventive new one. A blend of modern folk tales with traditional Inuit ones serves as a landscape for her music, where the sounds of classic indie pop and rock are interwoven with Inuit throat singing. On top of this, the half-Inuk, half-Mohawk artist also sings in three languages: English, French and Inuktitut, at times switching between multiple within one song. Her approach to bringing these elements together is skillful and graceful on her sixth studio album SHIFTING, where she explores the emotions surrounding getting older and moving on to another phase of life.
On paper, SHIFTING may sound daunting and overly complicated for those who only speak one language, but Deer's ability to craft a seamless flow between her songs and highlight universal themes of transformation and growth can lead any listener to enjoy the journey. "Emotionally, spiritually, and physically, the transition towards our authentic selves continues," she shared of the album. "As I shift into the position where I'm meant to be, I want to keep using what I've learned to help others."
Sonically and thematically, there's a duality to SHIFTING that is established early on — part indie rock/pop with harder, experimental elements peppered in, and part tender and docile, like a collection of lullabies. The opening song "FREE" is crystal clear and clean, celebrating being ready to move on from something or someone. What follows is "UQAUTINNGA," a stark contrast with its distorted rock guitar riffs interweaving through a steady percussion, and the sinister and murky "AANNGIQ," where Deer's throat singing lurks in the background, and the chant-like, one-note melody provides a simple slate for interesting textures to play off of. At times, the throat singing even becomes percussion itself, blending into the mix on the edgy, drum-heavy "SUNAUVVA."
The aptly named "ILINUTT - a prayer" is spiritual and folky, hushed and slow in its presentation and taking its time to open up, like a flower blossoming. On "HISTORY," Deer encourages listeners to let go of whatever is holding them back and proceed towards a brighter future. "Time to trust yourself, you have to trust yourself" and "Leave the past behind, leave the pain behind" she sings atop reverberating guitars and a bass line that slips around. The closing "ACCORDION SONG" is simply that: a minute-long accordion instrumental that sounds more like an interlude than an album finale. It's a somewhat lacklustre ending after the array of intricate sounds thus far, and the penultimate "CHRISTMAS" acts more like an 11 o'clock number.
Still, SHIFTING is an eclectic, enchanting project that pulls off morphing into different, contrasting sounds while remaining entirely cohesive in execution. It's an album that is as dark and avant-garde as it is light and playful, just like the life that Deer depicts in her music. (Independent)