Review: Nunavut singer Riit is fully assured on her debut, Ataataga

Singing and throat singing synthy electro-pop in Inuktitut, she shows she knows exactly what she wants to say and how she wants to say it

Rating: NNNN

On Riit’s debut album, infatuation and love, forgiveness and community all come together with assured focus. 

Hailing from Panniqtuq, Nunavut, the singer/throat singer/songwriter recorded ataataga in Iqaluit and Toronto. All but one track is sung in Inuktitut. 

Much of the imagery accompanying the album’s rollout shows Riit with chalk-white hair slicked back as if with ice, and that cold aesthetic reaches into the album’s chilly, synthy electro-pop sound. 

Her versatility enchants right off the bat, moving from sombre ballads to singing like an alt-pop ingenue. But Riit’s skill is more than genre flexibility. Opener ataataga, and its fleeting acoustic version that closes the album, reveal the depth of emotion Riit brings – sometimes searching, other times hopeful. Each song brings something different. 

Producer Graham Walsh (of Holy Fuck), successfully capitalizes on Riit’s sound-shifting ability, morphing from upbeat dance tracks like #uvangattauq and qujana to melancholy songs like inuusivut and the Elisapie-featuring uqausissaka. A skilled throat singer, Riit weaves between vocal styles, producing dynamic layers of sound and texture in songs like ataataga and qujana – a cover of fellow Panniqtuq artist Susa Aningmiuq. The grizzled rasp of Josh Q joins Riit on a cover of Northern Haze’s inuusivut, while Zaki Ibrahim guests on the #MeToo-inspired track #uvangattauq, an album-stealing duet in an already captivating body of songs. It’s also the only song to include English lyrics.

It’s exciting to hear a new voice from an artist who knows exactly what she wants to say and how she wants to say it.

Top track: ullagit


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