Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Tribe Called Red – We Are the Halluci Nation

A Tribe Called Red – We Are the Halluci Nation (Pirates Blend)

This Tribe just got a whole lot bigger.

Yes, this three-man DJ trio from Ottawa is poised to accelerate their ascent from local club nights to critical acclaim to Coachella with this, their third album, two years in the making.

But while in the past they built their sound primarily from samples of powwow groups licensed from the Tribal Spirit label, this time out they reached out directly to acts like NorthernVoice and Black Bear, both based in the Manawan region of central Quebec. That’s not surprising.

But they also welcomed to the Tribe kindred spirits Tanya Tagaq and Leonard Sumner, as well as Kenyan-Canadian Shad, and Colombian-Canadian Lido Pimienta. They’ve gone international, inviting African-American poet Saul William, Tuscarora North Carolinian singer Jennifer Kreisberg, and Maxida Märak, a Finnish singer of the Sami people. We Are the Halluci Nation takes its title from John Trudell, the legendary activist and poet of the American Indian Movement; the recordings he contributed to this project were among the last he ever made before he died of cancer last December.

It’s easy to uncharitably suggest that all A Tribe Called Red does is merely marry powwow singing to EDM, a chocolate-and-peanut-butter mash-up that continues to pay rich dividends here. There are certainly moments that succumb to EDM clichés, but Tribe has always had a broader musical vision in play—as one would expect from a group whose every intention is to shatter stereotypes. The trio has never just lazily cut and paste: the rhythms underneath emulate the powwow drums while simultaneously turning them on their head for the digital age. The percussive playfulness with Tagaq is delightful; the tracks with Pimienta echo the electro-cumbia sound of modern South America. Lead single “R.E.D.,” which features Yasiin Bey (a.k.a. Mos Def), Iraqi-Canadian MC Narcy and Black Bear, rides a slow, grinding, heavy riff that could be a Black Sabbath cover.

Music aside, Halluci Nation articulates resistance in ways rarely heard in hip-hop and practically never in EDM (“As First Nations people, everything we do is political,” pointed out the liner notes on 2013’s Nation II Nation). And the album doesn’t even include their 2015 “Thanksgiving special” single “Burn Your Village to the Ground.”

It’s not an understatement to say that A Tribe Called Red is redefining public consciousness of Canada’s First Nations people. One listen to this record will make the reasons why incredibly obvious.

Stream: “We Are the Halluci Nation” feat. John Trudell and Northern Voice; “(Sila)” feat. Tanya Tagaq; “How I Feel” feat. Leonard Sumner, Shad and Northern Voice

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