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Fearsome, strident and elemental, Tanya Tagaq's music is a genre unto itself. Tagaq's unique vocal style may be rooted in traditional cultural form, but her expression also aligns with avant-garde improvisation, classical expressionism and electronica influences, which inform her startling and powerful creative vision. This Inuk punk is known for delivering performances that are visceral and physical, heaving and breathing and alive. Her shows draw incredulous response from worldwide audiences, and Tagaq's tours tend to jump back and forth over the map of the world. From a Mexican EDM festival to the Carnegie Hall, her music and performances transcend language. Tagaq's 2014 Polaris Prize winning album ANIMISM has rocketed her to the forefront of the international music scene, and is making waves for it's originality, artistic importance and stunning uniqueness.
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her album 'Animism' is entirely deserved. It is an extraordinary work.
Her incorporation of the Inuit peoples' tradition of throat singing (usually
involving two women singing in playfully competitive interaction) into songs,
which although aligned with Western musical forms, are startlingly original
in impact. Listening to these inventions one truly enters another World.
There are eleven numbers in the set and listening to them now for the fourth
time before attempting to set pen to paper I am still finding it hard to conjure
the words to describe the experience. Ms Tagaq's voice is a mind-blowingly
complex instrument. Whether singing a sinuous and accessible melody or
contorting her vocal chords into producing terrifying grunts and howls and
juddering rhythmic breaths, there is a strange and enchanting sense of
ritual and a deep connection to the soil, the sky and the sea running through
the project which speaks to the Old Gods as much as it addresses issues
of contemporary political, environmental and deeply emotional importance.
The luminous introductory string arrangement of 'Caribou' paves the way for
a richly orchestrated arrangement featuring prominent percussion and brass
and a warm vocal melody which shares some sonic kinship with Bjork with
whom Ms Tagaq has had past collaboration. The territory is at first familiar
but the chilling animal-like screams in the closing bars seem to spring into
being from a far more unknowable and terrifyingly dark and alien place.
So too with 'Uja' whose metronomic beats frame a sustained assault on our
senses; the sounds which pour out of Ms Tagaq's larynx are barely believable.
'Howl' seems to be rooted in a very specific landscape; a haunted and haunting
place where the woods and hills are full of wolves singing to the full moon.
The disembodied quasi-operatic Ave Maria at the heart of 'Flight' has to compete
with a quietly funny accompaniment of rhythmic panting which threatens to trip up
the Diva as though a pack of boisterous puppies were snapping at her high heels.
With the final track 'Fracking', however, we are confronted by an almost unbearable
outpouring of fearful and grief-ridden half-animal/half human sound set against a bass
drone and jarring string motif whose nerve-shredding impact is almost indescribable.
'Animism' is about as far from the middle of the road as it is possible to be and I love it!