Canadian quartet BADBADNOTGOOD fuse jazz, krautrock and hip-hop on IV to sound something like what could only be described an incredible jam session between John Coltrane, Arthur Russell, Can, Herbie Hancock and MF Doom. IV is the follow-up to last year’s Sour Soul - a collaboration with Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ghostface Killah.
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BADBADNOTGOOD ARE IN FACT A VERY GOOD BAND. HA HA. LOL. MY FAVOURITE THING ABOUT THEM IS THAT THEY DARE TO DREAM. THEY USE CAPITAL LETTERS AT WILL, BECAUSE WHY NOT. THEY DO A SONG WITH THE GRUMPY-VOICED GUY FROM FUTURE ISLANDS AND SEQUENCE IT ALONGSIDE A SONG NAMED IN TRIBUTE TO USHER, FEATURING BASS-SAX STOMPER COLIN STETSON. THEY DO A THING WITH KAYTRANADA. AS IF A QUARTET OF JAZZ JAMMERS WASN’T ENOUGH, ‘IV’ OFFERS YOU A WHOLE FESTIVAL OF MUSICAL PERFORMANCe.
Okay I typo’d there at the end so I think we’ll leave it at that. ‘IV’ is the first BBNG record I’ve been absolutely enthralled by, one that invites you in on the basis of its supreme collaborations before immersing you in its delightfully skeletal jazz fusion. I first noticed “Time Moves Slow”, an absolutely gorgeous piece that matches Sam Herring’s slurred baritone and adoration for simple love song mantras (“mmmrunning away is easy / it’s the leaving that’s hard”) with the blaring keys and twilit guitar at BBNG’s core. It’s a song basks in cliche, and believing it ain’t no thing: for a good three minutes, you can submit to this sombre, romantic masterpiece and pretend it matters to you. As if transposing Herring’s voice into its most likely spirit instrument, the record’s next track begins with Colin Stetson blasting his bass sax ferociously, trying to push into place for the stringent and seismic sax jam eventually procured.
Alongside Kaytranada’s electronic spellcasting and a string-flushed pop number won by Charlotte Day Wilson, these are banner moments, triumphant proof of BBNG as a house band who can research an artist and then perfectly attune themselves for their needs. But what about BBNG’s needs? Their pieces are, here, as lovely and fluid as they’ve ever been, with divergent aesthetic choices being cut and pasted atop one another in a fantastic fusion collage: “Speaking Gently” has keys that sound ripe for hauntology, but the slurred sax flowing through the backdrop, and the playfully tumbling rhythm section, fill it with colour. “Chompy’s Paradise” is a lowlit, half-speed tune of whirring keys and sax so sombre it sounds like a clown with a drooping flower. Their music remains cartoonish and elemental, a jazz that’s about building the world rather than dismantling it.
It’s what they call a win win: the collabs are good, the band pieces gorgeous and the solos -- when they want them to be -- are absolutely outrageous. Really, though, it’s the little details that show how well BBNG master their studies -- the slippy bass of “Structure No. 3” or the perfect piano melody that pushes “Cashmere” into a star-twinkling cadence. It’s well made, it sounds nice and I LOVE IT.
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