Tanya Tagaq is a fur-wrapped gift for the press. She manages the trick of originality by virtue of melding contemporary composition and the traditional art of Inuk throat singing. ‘Animism’ may be her fourth album but it’s the first to come to global attention, in no small part due to her Polaris Music Prize win in 2014.
Teaching herself a version of the ancient call-and-response singing of her ancestors, somewhat mundanely in the shower, Tagaq’s expressionism is rooted in concerns with landscape, identity and aboriginal rights. A collaborator on Björk’s ‘Medúlla’ and with Kronos Quartet, she is creating a connection to the past and her environment with a wolf-like eye, focused on modernity, uniting the innovative and ancient.
The album opener is a cover of Pixies’ ‘Caribou’. The conventionally sung verses aren’t overly impressive – it’s the throaty grunts that arrest. On ‘Uja’ there’s little in the way of a melody at all, her voice acting as percussion amidst cacophonic electronica. This bestial groaning is looped over flighty strings on ‘Umingmak’ and mournful brass on ‘Rabbit’ and ‘Fight’, the latter of which sounds almost reminiscent of These New Puritans.
‘Flight’ allows her voice to do all the work, multi-tracked with a beautiful but haunting top line refrain. The closer, ‘Fracking’, is a painful death throw of Exorcist exhalations. Indulgently arresting stuff.
Words: Anna Wilson
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