Animism is Tanya Tagaq’s fourth album, following 2011’s release Anuraaqtuq. The album, produced by Canadian violinist Jesse Zubot, features Tagaq’s unique take on Inuit throat singing, underlined by EDM and punk elements, strings and operatic singing. Some of its tracks recorded in one take to more faithfully capture the artist’s images of the song. The resulting creation should be chaos and yet Animism is a solid construct, communicating Tagaq’s aggressively sensual, fiercely natural, often precarious world.
The Inuk singer, who became known to the public in the early 2000s through her collaborations with Björk and Mike Paton, departs in her new journey more political and unrestrained than ever before. All bets are off from the very first track, and intricately reworked cover of Caribou by the Pixies, betraying the singer’s early influences and setting the tone for the tracks that follow.
Uja follows, a track that solidly introduces Tagaq’s vocal repertoire, the urging pants, the otherworldly sighs, the assertive melodies. The patterns that emerge, diverse yet always centred upon the human breathing cycle, will be the listener’s guide and path throughout the album. Through the brief respite of Genetic Memory, and down the hunt of Rabbit, Animism becomes a full body experience – the patterns are too archaic, too liberating and aggressive, for the need for movement, dancing or mere nodding, not to emerge.
Inuit throat singing is a unique form of vocalisation, usually performed as a conversation between two women. Tagaq dissects and recreates this formula of duality on her own terms, as operatic softness intersects the guttural growls and frenzied panting throughout the album. Deafeningly so in Flight, where Tagaq’s low, rumbling vocals are stark contrasts to the bright arias of the opera singer Anna Pardo Canedo, the song’s hastening and dallying towards an intricately woven climax.
Damp Animal Spirits, amazingly recorded in one take, whets one’s appetite for the live experience. The journey of Animism reaches its peak with Fracking. This heavily political, intimate piece is a bold choice for the album’s closing track. A swan song that through broken gasps and mournful, wounded strings, alludes to the artist’s views on the issue, using her vocalisations as a projection of the ideals she keeps close to heart.
Tagaq’s musical presence is all-encompassing. Her vocalisms, encompassing both beauty and ugliness, tenderness and violence, are to the musical landscape what abstract expressionism is to painting. Raw, animalistic yet impossibly humane, non-descriptive but evoking. While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Animism is not an experience to skip over.