In 2004, when Björk released her (mostly) a cappella album, Medúlla, she brought in the world's premiere voice-musicians, including the America's Mike Patton, England's Simon Shlomo Khan, Japan's Dokaka and Canada's own Tanya Tagaq. With Animism, Tagaq's fourth LP, it's safe to say that she has taken this often divisive genre further than any of her contemporaries. Again working with producer/violinist Jesse Zubot, Animism finds Tagaq's fearless voice (literally and metaphorically) pushing the limits of beauty, anger, primal energy and sexuality.
Tanya Tagaq is an Inuk throat singer. She’s unusual in that she sings alone, whereas Canadian throat singing, unlike the Central Asian kind, is traditionally performed in pairs, an enunciation game. Tagaq has transformed it into a personal art-shamanism. I haven’t listened to her last studio album in a while, but if my memory is good then it was more stripped-back than this one, which is a tour de force, and contains one of the most radically bewildering symbioses of voice and field recording I’ve ever heard: track five, “Rabbit”.
Except for the comparatively straightforward first track, which provides three and a half minutes of English-language singing before digressing into screams and howls, there are no lyrics on Tanya Tagaq's third album that most listeners will understand. Animism is based in traditional Inuk throat singing, but Tagaq obliterates any boundaries in that genre or any other as she grunts, pants, whines and bawls. Sometimes the vocals are uncomfortable (that goes away after a couple of listens), and sometimes, like on Caribou or Rabbit, they're crystal clear and beautiful.
Tanya Tagaq hails from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, and has developed a modified form of Inuit throat singing. The rapid-fire exchange of gasping and growling breaths between two singers becomes, in her work, an intensive solo exercise. She miraculously manages to carry over this double-ness, refracting herself into audibly distinct beings on either side of her breath.