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Tanya Tagaq

  • Wisconsin Union Theater 800 Langdon Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

Canadian Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq is a singular voice in the avant-garde. Borrowing from her native Inuinnaqtun folk song, Western chamber music, and dark modern art rock, she has garnered international attention for Animism (2014), including the Polaris Music Prize. That album was decidedly more political in nature than her prior output, making an activist cry against humanity's ignorant destruction of the Earth. Retribution, released last fall, continues to explore this deep-rooted indignation associated with the disconnection between the planet and man-made industry; however, it also confronts the plight of indigenous women of the Nunavut territory, who've been disproportionately affected by poverty, environmental havoc, and even murder. The album's 10 adventurous but menacing tracks build with a mantric precision, often layering eerie, dissonant vocals, tremolo strings, timpani, and rhythmic electronics. While a large part of Retribution focuses on the timbres and elasticity of the human voice, the title track is unusually bold in its personifying lyrics. Tagaq emphatically speaks, without mincing words: "We squander [Mother Earth's] soil and suck out her sweet black blood to burn it. We turn money into God..." The seeming centerpiece of the album, "Summoning," takes an equally epic approach, commencing with mellifluous cooing amidst an amalgam of field-recorded sounds, including footsteps and bird caws. A choir of voices subtly rises with intermittent violin harmonics that mesh with Tagaq's undulating overtones (inhalations/exhalations) in its sonic storm of a crescendo. Despite the various comparisons to Björk due to their past collaboration, Tagaq's music is more similar in tonality to the drone-like solo works of Swans' Jarboe and chaotic abstraction of Mr. Bungle's Mike Patton. At this Union Theater performance, Tagaq will be supported by a wealth of local voices with backgrounds in choir and throat singing alike.  —Grant Phipps

Later Event: October 7
Goldlink, Masego, EarthGang