Few artists are as uncompromising as Canadian Inuk throat singer and composer Tanya Tagaq. Her vocals can be seductive, feral or terrifying – sometimes, all at once. With Saul Williams producing this, her sixth album, follow-up to 2016’s thunderous ‘Retribution’, it is a real meeting of minds and disciplines: two experimental artists collaborating seamlessly and in symbiosis.
Thematically, her work always focuses on our beleaguered planet, fighting for indigenous land rights, and the legacy we leave for future generations (should there be anyone left). But this time, she turns inwards: lyrics take on bodies, abuse of, scrutiny of and pleasure in; birth, survival and protection. She is in full prowling lioness mode, mother figure and goddess warrior.
It’s at its most menacing during the low-key moments – Tongues has sparse, clattering drums and a stark growled warning from Tagaq: “You can’t take my tongue/You can’t take my language”. This siren call extends to Teeth Agape, where she cautions, “Touch my children and my teeth will touch your windpipe”. Colonizer, meanwhile, has a low buzzing synthesizer, while her laboured breathing strains against it, pitting Tagaq like a trapped animal breaking free from a hostile environment, ready to exact vengeance on captors- highly appropriate, given the subject matter.
More subdued moments can be found too, as in I Forgive Me, with fragmentary samples weaving in and out the mix like a detuned radio, or the soft incantations within Do Not Fear Love.
Time has not led to compromise though, and Tagaq remains a singular, ferocious force in an industry that longs to see female artists embrace the mainstream as they continue their careers in their forties. Tagaq will never sell out, long may she roar.