Tongues comes straight at you. No invitation, no pleasantries, just right into the sound of the devil. Set against thick, pulsating bass, Tanya Tagaq’s contemporary take on traditional Inuk throat singing is 40-a-day gruff, doom metal guttural, and it gives the album opening a furious, feral quality that quickly takes grip.
Here, Tagaq contorts fragments of poetry and spoken word into a complex clash of punk, metal, and electronica that’s raw, rhythmic and constantly pressing. Sometimes sweet and soothing, other times jarringly gravelly, her voice comes at you from all angles and all octaves as she pivots between throaty exorcism and punk-ish agitation on the electro throb of ‘Colonizer’, unbodied spirituality on the sinister low-frequency hum of title track ‘Tongues’ and cuts loose on the tribal, percussion-driven ‘Birth’.
This lava of tension and resistance fuels Tongues, and while it simmers and boils for much of the album, after ‘Teeth Agape’ has shifted into something more minimal and distant, and once the searing, witch-house creep of ‘Nuclear’ has quieted, ‘Do Not Fear Love’ is noticeably more subdued with a spoken word softness that carries over a bunkered hip hop beat.
Compared to the untamed power of everything prior, it’s as if the anger and agitation has been worked through, allowing for something more reflective. ‘Earth Monster’ is exactly that, easing in with Tagaq almost meditative over a deep, exhaling melody until closer ‘Colonizer’ (Tundra Mix)’ allows the album’s co-producers Saul Williams and Gonjasufi to join her in ripping through the fleeting calm with a primal and suitably breathless finale.
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