Red Orange playlist:

Tanya Tagaq’s “Auk” reviewed on Sonomu

Tanya Tagaq: “Auk” (Jericho Beach Records)

Tanya Tagaq may well be the most exciting aboriginal artist yet to emerge from North America. Her art is unclassifiably idiosyncratic yet in demand from an ever-widening audience. In early 2010 alone, she appeared in concert with Kronos Quartet, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and a brace of electronic musicians, including the inimitable Deadbeat. She´s made a movie that will appear at Sundance and she´s an accomplished painter, combining near-photo realism with bold colour and abstraction reminiscent of Norval Morrisseau. And yes, of course she´s worked with Björk.

Like many in our postmodern world, Tagaq did not grow up embracing traditional culture in her native Ikaluktuutiak in Nunavut, but rather turned to it and taught herself Inuit throat singing as a cure for homesickness while away at university in Halifax. This relative lateness and distance has the effect of preventing her from getting stuck in merely transmitting tradition and instead dragging it into the contemporary arts, where her interests lie, while retaining a clear connection to her landscape and heritage.

That this is not your traditional, ”anthropological” disc is apparent from the opening. After a mood-setting, ambient introduction, what sounds like traditional throat singing quickly proves to be a duet owing more to Meredith Monk than Inuit tradition, as she trades crazed ”riffs” with guest Mike Patton of Faith No More. On ”Growth”, she delves even deeper into her tradition, psyche and esophagus, in a wild collage of splintering violin, cello and drumkit.

Tagaq sustains admirable tension throughout the fifty-two minutes of Auk, between swirling wisps like ”Tategak” and intensely-focused pieces like ”Force”, a feral duet with Shamik Bilgi which reveals the uncanny family resemblance between throat-singing and beatboxing. In either mode, she appears to simply let the spirit move her, quite literally – she herself speaks of improvising out of possession.

”Hunger” might well be the most raw depiction of female sexuality committed to tape, with increasingly orgasmic moans setting the rhythm for her graphic description of what she wants to do for her lover and what she wants him to do to her.

The inclusion of two tracks featuring rapper Buck 65 might appear a sop to current popular tastes if it weren´t for the fact that she and the Maritimer are close friends and share many of the same concerns.

How much this is ”her” (and producer Juan Hernández´) album becomes startlingly apparent after a glance at the liner notes. While the sound is so full and rich, she is normally accompanied by no more than a violin, cello or electronic treatments.

Posted by Stephen Fruitman at 00:58, 31 May 2010 (sonomu.net)