Tanya Tagaq – Toothsayer

toothsayerI’ve often imagined that, somewhere in the world, there is a highly exclusive and mind-altering party populated by these ever-daring, pioneering, and radical artists. Over in one corner, there’s a hologram of Andy Warhol eating a bowl of soup. In the other corner is the Jackson Pollock face-painting station. Hey look! Lynch has set up a transcendental meditation area. How fun! Whenever I imagine these lavish and impossible parties, Tanya is always there. She has to be. It’s Tanya fucking Tagaq. But Tanya isn’t like the other guests. She’s down-to-earth. She’s open. She’ll talk to you. I imagine this because her life, and art, isn’t about elevating herself. It’s about finding the purest aspects of being human and revealing them unabashedly. In short? She’s fucking awesome.

Tanya is an Inuit throat singer. If you haven’t heard this style of singing before (katajjaq), it can be pretty fucking intense. I’ve met avid metal fans that were truly terrified by it. It’s not that this style of singing is overly harsh or abrasive. It horrifies the listener in its sheer rawness. Katajjaq is also wondrous, erotic, percussive, hypnotic, intimate, revealing, and a long list of other adjectives that won’t make a lick of fucking sense until you sit down and listen to it.

This EP started as the audio contribution to the “Polar World” exhibit at UK’s National Maritime Museum. Tanya is joined by the insane jazz percussionist Jean Martin and the crazy electronic ambient soundscape maker Ash Koosha. With a trio like this? You know this shit is going to be as magnificent as it is way the fuck out there. So hold on those asses. This shit’s going to get bumpy.

Tanya performs her vocal lines as she often does, immaculately and without any sense of over-performance. But what really makes this album stand out is how well this trio works together. As the electronic ambiance swells and the percussion gently swirls, Tanya sings out her wondrous song. To have three daring and forward thinking artists collaborate together this smoothly is rare. It’s absolutely fucking beautiful.

I’m going to let Tanya tell you in her own words why this album is called Toothsayer:

“I named this Toothsayer because I always liked the term soothsayer, to look into the future and to speak wisely.” She goes on to say, “Teeth represent protection and hunting in nature. We are going to have to get our fists up and our teeth out to carve our way to survival in this world.”

Straight up? I’m a bit fucking obsessed with Tanya. The way she moves forward creatively at skin-peeling speeds without ever losing her sense of authenticity and heart is inspiring as all fuck. Yes, she’s worked with monsters like Björk, Kronos Quartet, and Mike Patton. But you can also imagine her eating a bagged lunch while waiting for a bus like the rest of us pieces of shit. Her art doesn’t fall from the sky and declare to the peasants what they ought to do. Her work connects to a deeper part of humanity. It brings us back to the first ever humans agreeing to sit around a fire and share in its warmth. Tanya’s voice rises from the earth, shakes the very ground, and dismantles whatever fragile egos or precarious ideologies are in its way. She creates this effect using her throat, skull, and her goddamn teeth.

2 thoughts

  1. I was not prepared for the lack of words! I think the production is a bit heavy on the delay, to the degree of obscuring Tanya’s vocals, but aside from that, this definitely is that deep shit that sinks in with multiple listens. (For the record, this is what I sorta would expect Radiohead to, not necessarily sound like, but *be* like, based on all the insane hype. Alas).

    Liked by 1 person

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