Tanya Tagaq – Retribution

tanyaIf you haven’t heard Tagaq yet, then this will be a matrix-like revelation and I’m sorry for the oncoming whiplash that’s about to ensue.

Tanya became internationally known when she jumped onto Bjork’s Medúlla in 2004. This is a perplexing, fantastic, and grand experiment of an album all about the human voice. The entire album is made up of the human voice, that is, outside of one song that Tanya sings on, called “Ancestors”. On this song there’s a simple piano track. The rest of the song is Bjork and Tanya singing side by side. Now, whatever you may think of Bjork, the exotic brilliance of her vocals is un-fucking-deniable. She is one of the greatest vocalists alive, if not to have ever lived (Yes, I know this is a fucking subjective statement. You could be a dick like that or you could go ahead and try to make a list of the 100 greatest singers to have ever lived and then not include Bjork’s name on that list. Go ahead and fucking try. She’ll be on it. You know it. And I know it.) When I first heard Tanya sing by Bjork’s side, a couple strange things happened. First, I couldn’t believe that whoever this Tanya lady was could not only just keep up to Bjork but at moments completely outdo her vocally. Secondly, I tried looking up the other singers’ names on the track because when Tanya sings it doesn’t sound like one person. It’s like in the motherfucking bible when it says, “‘My name is Legion, for we are many.’ (Mark 5:9). And thirdly, the sheer amount of emotion that comes out of Tanya when she sings is completely baffling. If you ever have the chance to see her live, do it. It changes you as a person. It’s almost as if some raw condensed form of what it means to be human comes out of her mouth when she sings. You see, Tanya doesn’t sing like tra-la-la-la-la, she’s an Inuit throat singer. She doesn’t just sing by pushing air out of her face, she also sings when she sucks air back in. It’s a whole new fucking world, motherfucker.

Tanya has made a name for herself since Bjork. She’s performed with Kronos Quartet. In 2005 she released Sinaa, Auk/Blood with Mike Patton in 2008, and Animism in 2014. Each of these albums were quite good. But holy-fucking-shit this album is something else. Straight up? If you haven’t done the gentle build with Tanya, this may be too much for you (though I’d love if someone proved me wrong on this). Tanya once again pushes the bounds on the very meaning of what it means to sing, the very base idea of what it means to emit sound from a throat, the very meaning of music, and questionably what it is to be human. Is it a difficult listen? If challenging everything you’ve ever known about music and sound is difficult, then ya, it’s fucking difficult. But is it worth it? If you can handle what happens on this album, I’m fairly sure you’re open to whatever else may come your way. A giant floating shoe wants to take over the world? Makes sense, we’ve been really bad to shoes for a long ass time. Everything you know is a simulation made by a being that shits computer DNA? Cool. We may not have enough money this month? Alright, let’s see what we can do about that.

Mind expanding might not even begin to describe this shit. 

If you can imagine the first humans ever sitting around a fire, troglodytes chilling and scared as fuck of each other. And if each one, in turn, just started blasting out their version of a human sound, then you might have an idea of what the vocals on this album sound like. It’s scary. It’s chilly. And, sweet damn, is it sexy sometimes. Some songs sound like metal, some are rap, others are contemporary classical. It goes all over the place but it never loses its heart or its soul. This album is cohesive in the bare humanness of it. It is by far one of the most interesting and provocative albums I’ve heard in a long fucking time. It will take more than one listen to get through this shit. And thank Christ for that. 


 

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