Tundra Music Collective aren’t playing out old formulas and watered-down concepts based on their idols’ greatest hits in the explosive album Rawk On. There are no big props, filler, or synthetic harmonies to adorn simplistic lyrics of love and loss upon. In tracks like the record-starting title cut, the blustery “Modified” and aggressive afrobeat minimalist “Suspension of Disbelief,” this band is putting way more stock in the power of groove worship than they are any of the poses that come with trying to fit in with the mainstream pop crowd.
This group isn’t trying to be anything they aren’t – in other songs like “Danger,” “Kanpe” and “Safe,” they display an honest vulnerability in their lyrics that tells me they’re far from hung up on theatrics or overindulgence of any kind. Employing melodies as frequently as they do instrumental rhapsodizing and poetic substance when trying to make a point to their audience, Tundra Music Collective breaks off a must-listen album in Rawk On that doesn’t try to change the world so much as it reminds us how to rock the way we were always supposed to.
There’s not a lot of oomph to the percussion in “Suspension of Disbelief,” “Rawk On” or “Safe,” but with the size of the melody-focused grooving in the foreground of the master mix, there doesn’t need to be a lot of extra kick in the drums. Tundra Music Collective is careful to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that come with weighing down a record with a ton of somewhat unnecessary fireworks here, and though the lyrics aren’t always as expressive as the harmonies carrying them forth are, none of this material is indulgently artsy at all. Multidimensionality is the key ingredient in this band’s recipe for crossover hip-hop success – much like the icons that came before them – but they’re making sure not to overextend any of the elements that they so clearly know how to manage better than most players in the game do nowadays.
I haven’t seen this band live, but I get the feeling that a lot of what’s being presented to the world in Rawk On is just a taste of what Tundra Music Collective’s stage experience would probably sound and feel like. Though dominantly muscular around every one of its many twists and turns, this record and the wealth of content it has to present offers a lot of different layers that make me want to hear what these musicians can accomplish with another full-length studio album sometime in the not-so-distant future.
They’ve got the right pieces to do some serious damage in the underground at the moment – especially when taking into account just how overwhelming a lull the American indie circuit has been experiencing lately – and in time, I think they can be trusted to put them to good use in an LP presented from the stage rather than the studio. If one thing is clear when listening to Rawk On, it’s that this is just the beginning of widespread exposure for Tundra Music Collective.