Joe Rainey

Niineta (37d03d)

Contact Patrick Tilley about Joe Rainey

Pow Wow singer Joe Rainey shares a new single, “turned engine,” from his debut album, Niineta, out May 20th with 37d03d. The track features vocals by Allie Bearhead, a talented singer from Wihnemne, Paul First Nation in Alberta, Canada, with unbelievable range. “I knew she had done some experimental singing on her own. I sent her the track and she didn’t hesitate to send back a stem,” explains Rainey. “And the title is another movie reference, this time from Dances With Wolves. In the movie, Costner returns home to his abandoned U.S. Army post as an ‘Indian’ and is immediately imprisoned. His captor, a Lawrence Bauer, taunts, ‘Turned injun, dintja…dintja!’” As with previous singles, the track was produced by Andrew Broder and features Stargaze Orchestra members Alistair Sung on cello and Mayah Kadish on violin.


Perhaps the most visceral and yearning track on Niineta, “turned engine” uses drums sparsely, instead letting Rainey’s vocal lead the way, while the heartbreaking strings swirl behind him. When the track switches gears, we are transported straight to the Pow Wow, captured by Rainey and his trusty tape recorder, the intensity ramps up and leaves the listener breathless by the song’s climax.


On Niineta, Rainey demonstrates his command of the Pow Wow style, descending from Indigenous singing that’s been heard across the waters of what is now called Minnesota for centuries. Depending on the song or the pattern, his voice can celebrate or console, welcome or intimidate, wake you up with a start or lull your babies to sleep. Each note conveys a clear message, no matter the inflection: We’re still here. We were here before you were, and we never left. The songs that make up Niineta start with Andrew Broder’s beats, the two of them experimenting with various sounds and tempos, before bringing in other 37d03d collaborators to orchestrate and recontextualize the ancient Pow Wow sound in strange, new in-between places.