The opening track, a cover and well known as a Pixies classic, ‘Caribou’ is the most conventional track that could be deemed a song in the strictest sense of the word from the new Tanya Tagaq album which is soon to be released through Six Shooter Records.
Having performed with some obliquely talented artists in the past such as Bjork and the string-based Kronos Quartet the Canadian, and whilst this is not a criticism, the Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq is more renowned for her unique live performances rather than her recorded work and this idea is reinforced on Animism.
Beyond the album opener, the imagination is in overdrive, made so by the throaty sound effects and vocal instrumentals that Tagaq has clearly crafted with this record. ‘Caribou’, a reindeer that’s part of the Inuit diet, is given a level of intense expression that makes it far-removed from the original song. Instigated with a gong and a classical string section before her haunting vocals set-in, she strikes a very different tone from the Pixies’ track of the same name. Building classically with a touch of discord and some disturbing effects thrown in for good measure, Tagaq stimulates a cinematic imagery that builds crescendo and creates dissonance with its use of strings.
The rest of Animism is evocative, classical capturing and similarly filmic, but you can understand where the title came from with an immediate listen. The culmination of discordant strings and exhausted, throaty sound effects makes you feel like a voyeur listening in on someone’s moment of pleasure and then in the next moment hearing more primitive animal noises. At times, it is difficult to decipher which is which.
‘Uja’, with its juxtaposition of guttural vocals, percussion and strings builds tempo to create an uncomfortable listen with this vocalist’s obscure and non-conforming style. This type of critique can be applied to the rest of the album as she very much creates an abrasive atmosphere that envelopes her listeners, creating a cinematic scene, as though constructing a horror or psychological thriller score.
‘Fracking’ is one of the more interesting and provocative tracks, sitting pronounced at the very end of this record, with sound effects that connote the illness and suffering of those who have to endure fracking in their local area. It’s a visceral, disconcerting song, which urges us to consider the effects of this, as long as we are aware of the title track (I still to this day encounter people that tell me that they do not have the memory capability to name me album track titles), but it’s highly vivid, and encourages unease.
However, Tagaq’s attempt at singing on ‘Flight’ is harmonious and classically executed, adding a layer of conventionality to an album that it is blatantly conceived as an avant-garde experimental piece of work gaudily emitting emotion. At moments her vocals impressively reach operatic levels and profile her talent. Despite this there are still human sound effects layered throughout, which consecutively and atmospherically heighten ‘Flight’.
An album which showcases the flair of Tanya Tagaq, it is also not the most accessible long player and will only be partial to a certain ear. Not everyone will be aroused and intrigued by Animism; I suggest it might only work for those who are fans of cinematic sounds and who listen to the likes of Geese and David Thomas Broughton. But as a long player it’s certainly not lacking in expressionism which might be why it was awarded the esteemed Canadian Polaris Music Prize, beating the likes of Arcade Fire and Drake. For those intrigued by this oblique artist she will be performing at the Village Underground on May 19th in London.
Released on 26th January you can purchase Animism from this pre-order link