Sometimes, being uncompromising as fuck pays off! The success of Tanya Tagaq heralds such an occurrence, one that rarely transpires but always brings a smile to my gob (you don’t have to suck to succeed). She seems to have enthralled the “World Music” spectrum, which is, in regard to some of her construct, very surprising due to the intense darkness & ominous threat much of her music emanates. She is frequently mal-defined as the Inuit “punk”…. I get the initiative behind this description, but it’s wholly incorrect – it would be better denoting her affiliation or axis as Noise or uncomfortable Industrial-esque experimentalism & extreme Avant-Garde. Naturally, the vast majority of the World Music demographic will unlikely be familiar with the latter, so the “Punk” mis-nomenclature presides. Anyhow, I think we can fairly confidently divide the material on this great album into roughly two dimensions, very theatric & ritualistic sonic-scenarios with Field Recordings of blizzards, cawing crows & heaps of eerie intensity. Then comes the more direct musical manifestations that amass platforms of Rock, Metal, Noise, Avant-Garde, Orchestral elements, Hip-Hop & some IDM themed features, never ever really executed in a traditional manner. Then of course you have Tagaq herself, who embodies some kind of avenging environmental martial tribal spirit on a divine quest of revanchism. She conducts many rolls, the most lucid sees her project a stern, commanding & slightly sensual stance that conjures some similarities to the likes of Lila Downs, Tori Amos, Diamanda Galas, Youn Sun Nah, Annette Peacock & Kate Bush. Secondly (& predominantly) she fashions & wields a theriomorphic beast state/mimesis that emulates animal expressions (specifically wolves-lupine lallation) with extremely sophisticated grunting techniques, animal noises, rapid snuffling, screeling, corvine garble & some manner of beast state-animal possession. Next? Xoomie, (throat & overtone singing) most notably present in Mongolia & the Tuvan ranges of Russia (also prevalent in many Eastern Russian indigenous communities), I had no idea that it’s practiced by the North American autochthonous also (it makes total sense though considering the geography). That’s a lot of oral ordinance to be getting on with & Tanya is a riot of experimentation, vocal bending, extreme dramaticism, shamaness malisons, wolf howls & alternative-death-metal-weirdness. On some sections she commands The Element Choir – about forty personnel who convene on Nacreous & Summoning. Like some huge staged theatrical piece from an unclassified occult epic, these pieces feel like they are the direct score & sound-scape from a movies pivotal scene minus the cinematography itself. The more surreal & hysterical moments scour familiarity or kinship with some of the madder wordless vocal exuberance of Avant Jazz artists such as Jeanne Lee, Linda Sharrock, Jay Clayton & of course – Urszula Dudziak. This particular album, by far her best & the first I encountered from Tagaq – deals with extinction advocacy from fossil fuel fanatics, habitat extermination, climate catastrophe & the curse of petroleum. A bunch of colonizing corporate nihilists are exporting tar-sands over the border so Americans can waste millions more tons of food into landfill & drive themselves to pollution annihilation. She, & the rest of us have a lot to be pissed-off about… “Retribution”, as the name suggests, seems conceptually like a war-cry, rallying the clans to go & fight the Free Market extremists & their tyrannical facilitators. Tagaq’s mad & dark revenge rampage against indescribably despicable oil execs & cannibalistic capitalism is sonically profound as well as politically. This is a very powerful & challenging hulk of intense, unsettling, stygian resistance steeped in supernatural & ethnic procession & matriarchal hyper tension. It would be all too easy to pledge support purely from the daring involved & the fact you have a she-wolf in full war-paint with a tomahawk waging war on shitness in such stark terms, but it’s genuinely an excellent LP & breaks major ground on multiple frontiers. It’s only the last track, a warped cover version of Nirvana’s “Rape Me” that earns the weakest moment (not that it’s actually that bad). An incredible piece of work.
Label: Six Shooter Records
Animism: This is the second LP I tagged by Tagaq after being introduced by way of 2015’s Retribution (Animism having been recorded in 2013). For me, in all honesty, this album is eons & eons behind Retribution & it’s very much Tanya finding her sound & structural support. Her “beast blather” is much less developed & astute. On the way but not there. The music/tunes are also far from formidable…. Some interesting ideas/inclusions, lashings of potential, but nothing here amongst 11 cuts that sinks the fangs. There’s plenty to commend within, & the direction is exciting, but nothing really lands a strike, to my ears at least. I would perhaps be a little more favorable had I not heard the follow-up LP, which completely & utterly blows this out the frame! If you are new to Tagaq, definitely’ definitely claw her Retribution album first cos’ this is miles behind.
Label: Six Shooter Records