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Tundra Music Collective Release “Rawk On”

In their new record, appropriately titled Rawk On, experimentalists Tundra Music Collective don’t waste our time with a cerebral intro or any sort of pomp and prestige unbecoming of a true alternative band – they jump right into the fire with “Rawk On.” Loaded with juggernaut hip-hop beats and an optimistic vocal harmony that essentially sets the tone for the whole of the tracklist, “Rawk On” was the right pick to kick this record off with a bang. “Danger,” the song that immediately follows the opening salvo of vivacious play, is just as much of a charmer, and in some ways, it offers us a slightly deeper look into the scope of what this unique afrobeat band is all about. 


While “Danger” is a feel-good throwdown of epic proportions, it doesn’t have quite the homespun feel that “Kanpe” does. Though I wouldn’t call this track a ballad per se, it’s the most plodding song on the album. The rhythm of the percussion is made to deliberately conflict with the fluidity of the melodies and vocals, but rather than yielding an experimental discord, it creates viable chaos that Tundra Music Collective manipulates into genuine melodicism. They’re not breaking the mold with their application of alternative compositional techniques in Rawk On, but they’re bucking any mainstream trends with the incorporation of aesthetics that, for the better part of the last two decades, have been relegated to content found left of the dial. 

“Modified” sparks up a little bit of metallic electro-pop amid the zaniest revelry in “Kanpe” and “Safe,” but the song doesn’t feel like a total departure from the overall theme of the material in Rawk On at all. Tundra Music Collective can wear a lot of different looks, and whether they’re fronting a rough-edged indie sound in “Modified” or cutting into something a little punkier in “Safe,” they don’t sound like a band desperately trying to find their own unique style of play. They’re comfortable being the flexible crew that they fashion themselves as in this record, and that makes them quite the interesting study this January for sure. 

Tundra Music Collective finishes us off with the lusty “Suspension of Disbelief” before bringing us across the finish line in Rawk On, and though this record clocks in at a rather modest total length, it doesn’t feel like a limited glimpse into who its players are for a second. Hip-hop and alternative music usually do best when they’re kept simple and disjointed from the mainstream ethos that prevents artists from really exploring the depth of a composition entirely, and in this new release from Tundra Music Collective, there isn’t anything synthesized or artificial to come in the way of artists connecting with their audience.

I admire their moxie, especially given the quiet time for the hip-hop genre (relative to what we’ve seen in previous decades), and with any luck, it will spread to their contemporaries in the underground and mainstream alike. All in all, this is another reason to keep tabs on the Canadian scene this winter. 

Mindy McCall



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