Into the Future: Tanya Tagaq’s Toothsayer

Chris Daly takes a look at the experimental artist's latest EP.
By    February 26, 2019

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Chris Daly‘s psychic medium of choice is a Magic 8-Ball.

Time was, a body had to go to a bar or a club or the like to hear the latest sounds emanating from the further reaches of funky, but that was yesterday.  Today, as all the cool kids in the know understand, if you want to hear that really dope shit, you best save up and upgrade to that annual museum pass.  Whether its as accompaniment to your sister’s visual arts set-up at the Whitney Museum of American Art or a cross-spectrum experiment to get you to brave arctic temperatures around Chicago in February, more and more artists are finding spaces that promote “art” over one dollar shots tend to be more conducive to their overall musical efforts.
Case in point, Tanya Tagaq, everyone’s favorite Inuit throat singer, is getting ready to drop Toothsayer, a five-track EP on the Six Shooter Records label.  The EP began as her audio contribution to the “Polar Worlds” exhibit at the UK’s National Maritime Museum.
For those somehow still unfamiliar with Inuit throat singing, first off, shame on you.  Also known as katajjaq, imagine the intersection of religious chanting, beatboxing and loud orgasms.  While normally performed by a female duo, Tagaq typically does her thing solo. Here, however, TT is joined by percussionist Jean Martin and UK experimental electronic artist Ash Koosha as the trio paints a three dimensional sonic soundscape that alternates between harsh and lush, barren and fecund. Opener “Icebreaker” is a paranoid fever dream, scattered percussion laying the framework for Tagaq’s frenzied verbal attacks that range from guttural grunts to birdlike shrieks. “Snowblind” is a far more tranquil affair, ideal for those who prefer their Northern Lights with Northern Lights.
The equally sedate titular track hinges on echoes, at times reminiscent of gulls at the shore as Tagaq’s voice swoops in and out of the periphery. “Submerged” starts on the same chilled tip before breaking through the surface as a full-throated freak out. I’ve heard said that slowly freezing to death actually is a somewhat peaceful affair, as one drifts off into unending sleep. Closer “Hypothermia” does a damn fine job recreating that perception.
“I named this Toothsayer because I always liked the term soothsayer, to look into the future and to speak wisely,” Tagaq stated. “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.”  And don’t forget your museum pass, either.

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