If you’ve never witnessed an exorcism and was interested in experiencing a 45-minute plus aural sample of one, Tanya Tagaq’s Retribution is for you. A renowned throat singer, which is a vocal style akin to metalcore screaming only even more annoying and even disgusting, Tagaq’s subject matter is nonetheless respectable: humans’ abuse of our planet. Very few words are used to describe the planet’s pain; instead Tagaq utilizes her throat creating gargles, warbles, and growls that are certainly unlike anything I’ve ever heard. But just because something is unique does not automatically make it good.
Certainly there is art to be shared here that, for those in the right frame of mind (or more accurately, with the right set of eardrums that are capable of handling abuse), Tagaq’s violent music ticks the right set of audible boxes. The musical undercurrent behind her is often gripping, particularly in “Cold” and “Centre” the latter of which sounds almost like a normal song with its inclusion of rapper Shad, creating an interesting dichotomy in an album filled with the unnatural. But it’s hard to listen to “Nacreous” without trying to find something else to occupy your mind, a tactic that torture victims probably use in order to take their mind off of the pain they are experiencing. “Sulfur” is even worse and is just about impossible to listen to with headphones on as you can almost feel Tagaq’s throat vibrating across your eardrums. I can appreciate what Tagaq is trying to accomplish through her artistry which accounts for the unusually high rating for an album that brought me this level of pain and discomfort. But in the sense of accomplishing what most people are looking for when listening to music (such as sounds that bring them pleasure), this album is an abject failure. Cool album art, though.