06 Pot Pourri 02 TagaqAnimism
Tanya Tagaq
Six Shooter Records (tanyatagaq.com)

This album is a profound exploration of transcultural confrontation and transformation as expresed through the magical qualities and healing power of sound. Featuring the brilliant vocalism of Inuk avant-garde throat singer Tanya Tagaq, Animism synergistically merges her indigenous rights activism with the expressive force of her art. Not simply a typical “wordless protest album” however, its release promptly caused significant critical acclaim. To cap it off, Tagaq won the 2014 Polaris Music Prize, presented annually for the “best Canadian album regardless of genre or sales,” becoming its first indigenous recipient.

To be sure, the involvement of the polished improv-based musicality of her regular accompanists, Toronto drummer Jean Martin and the B.C.-based violinist, producer and arranger Jesse Zubot, is essential to every track.

Tagaq’s vocal art lives in zones of layered, multiple hybridity, a foundational feature of which is her free improv performance strategy. Paradoxically however, this CD’s first song is a cover of the Pixies’Caribou” (1987) sung in a “standard” (that is non-throat singing) voice by Tagaq and masterfully arranged with the addition of synth, horn and string parts by Zubot. Comparing it to the original Pixies’ recording, I prefer this album’s extended version, still rocking in sections yet musically convincing us without strumming a single guitar chord.

The pop-orientedCaribou” is an exceptional case here, however. Other songs like Rabbit propose an almost cinematic soundscape. Atop field recordings of northern soundscapes by Michael Red, and Zubot’s significant contributions, Tagaq’s vocalise transforms itself effortlessly from human to animal sounds and back.

The music on the innovative Animism, though sonically and emotionally rooted in the arctic, is nevertheless poised to move audiences no matter where they live.

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