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A Tribe Called Red

A Tribe Called Red - Nation II Nation

Nation II Nation
Tribal Spirit - 2013

Michael Panontin
A Tribe Called Red couldn't have dropped this album at a better time. Though the Ottawa collective of Bear Witness, DeeJay Shub and DeeJay NDN make music that is ostensibly for dancefloors, they have always insisted that theirs is a political existence almost by default. "As aboriginal people," explained Witness, "everything we do is political. Just being here and surviving is political because everything has been done in the past 500 years to try and stop that from happening." To further the point, consider that this follow-up to 2012's Polaris-nominated debut came out mere weeks after a frankly awe-inspiring group of Cree youth were snubbed by the Prime Minister after completing a two-month trek from northern Quebec to Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Sixteen hundred kilometres in the middle of winter and Stephen Harper didn't even bother to come out and greet them on arrival.

Like the music on their earlier record, which the trio have dubbed pow wow step, the 10-track Nation II Nation mixes samples of drums and chants with more up-to-date dubstep effects. But whereas the former at times bogged down in some over-zealous knob-twiddling, here the trio push the native elements to the forefront, giving the samples (from acts like Black Bear, Eastern Eagle and Chippawa Travellers to name a few) ample space to hit us with their inherent intensity. The opener 'Bread & Cheese', for instance, picks up where the excellent 'Red Skin Girl' left off, with its sparse beats and menacing vocals. But things get even better this time around with the Tribe's forays into dub, as on the more downtempo 'The Road', and global grooves, where the quirkier 'Sisters' wouldn't sound so out of place were it slipped into a set with M.I.A. and Santigold. Nation II Nation has made it to the Polaris shortlist this time, so here's hoping that 2013 is the year that Canada's third solitude finally get their due.


     A Tribe Called Red
     Tribal Spirit

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