Tanya Tagaq - Toothsayer

  • Inuit throat singing meets out-there electronics.
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  • You might know the Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq from Björk's 2004 album, Medúlla. Her solo work, whether in visual art or music, mixes the musical and spiritual traditions of the Inuit peoples of Northern Canada, often seeking to embody the natural world around her. Tagaq's latest record, Toothsayer—made in collaboration with Ash Koosha and Jean Martin—is inspired by the wintry expanse of her native Nunavut, and was originally commissioned by a London museum for an exhibition called Polar Worlds. The result is some of Tagaq's most gripping and visceral music, trading the songcraft of recent records for an impressionistic approach. Toothsayer's five tracks make varying use of live drums, synths and pianos, with Tagaq's voice providing both rhythm and melody. Sometimes she sings, sometimes she coos. But more often she grunts, pants and shrieks in her inimitable Inuit throat singing style. "Toothsayer" and "Submerged" make heavy use of Martin's percussion, stitched into writhing rhythms that wouldn't be out of place in the furthest reaches of a Ricardo Villalobos set. The more ambient and piano-driven "Snowblind," inspired by white-out conditions, is sublime. The way these tracks dramatically rise and fall, along with their largely wordless nature, recalls post-rock. Fans of that genre could make some Sigur Rós comparisons on the harrowing "Hypothermia," which ends with what sounds like the panicked breaths of someone trying not to freeze to death. Through throat singing, traditionally performed as a dialogue between two women, Tagaq tells ancient stories of the lives of her people from a modern perspective, preserving tradition while helping it evolve.
  • Tracklist
      01. Icebreaker 02. Snowblind 03. Toothsayer 04. Submerged 05. Hypothermia