BADBADNOTGOOD, a name that is linked to ‘effortless cool’ and the likes of Tyler the Creator, Frank Ocean, and Earl Sweatshirt have once again been up to no good. These three young Toronto teenagers who through their shared love of hip-hop, combined with their training in Jazz have created something extremely vast and overtly imaginative in the form of their fourth album ‘IV’.
It seems that much of ‘IV’ is awash, as solid, structured foundations, which seem to tremble under the weight of loose instrument interludes cause a teetering effect, leaving them on the brink of chaos but seemingly always in control. No track offers up this notion of turbulence better than ‘Confessions Pt2’, which features acclaimed American musician Colin Stetson. Stetson’s musical abilities have seen him work alongside Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, with ‘Confessions Pt2’ showcasing his vast array of styles. Throughout the piece Stetson’s sax can be heard far and near, driving the song with his somewhat aggressive style of play. Yet, in a type of unison, Stetson gives the audience relief, through the cathartic nature of his performance. Leaving you emotionally exhausted but content.
Stetson is not the only musician to feature on the album, with BADBADNOTGOOD employing the help of three vastly different vocalists to accompany the band’s impeccable instrumentals. The inclusion of these vocalists has seen a depth and personality added to the band, signifying (as cliche’ as it may sound) a maturity, which sees them leave behind the unimpressed looks of their stubborn orthodox teachers and embrace their combined love of competing genres. With the band’s only other collaboration with a vocalists being with Ghostface Killah on the ‘Sour Soul’ record this is rather new territory for them. ‘Time Moves Slow’ features the unique and quirky Samuel T. Herring from Future Islands, whose live performances have garnished him a reputation of having a powerful emotive presence. Chester Hansen’s bass is prominent throughout the piece and his lush tones echo surety in his work. This combined with Herring’s vocals brings all the elements at work together, allowing the track to flow harmoniously, resulting in moments of self purpose and clarity, which come in stark contrast to an album that is propelled and driven by the imaginative.
‘Hyssop of Love’ displays the stylings of Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins, whose flow adheres to the shifting cadence of the music, showcasing once again the winning combination that is BADBADNOTGOOD and hip-hop. This can be said even of those tracks without vocals, with ‘Speaking Gently’ being a detailed and intricate, jazz-infused hip-hop track. The ability of the band to effortlessly merge classical Jazz techniques and stylings with hip-hop instrumentals and neurotic improvisations has made BADBADNOTGOOD one of the most unique and boundary pushing bands in modern music, as they allow the youth of today to access seemingly forgotten genres.
The Album opener ‘And That, Too’ is excessively smooth (not in a bad way) and sultry, and is somewhat subdued with regimented woodwind and percussion driving the track, that is until saxophonist Leland Whyitty’s rather abrupt solo. However, this isn’t the only time that Whitty – who has formally joined the band after a lengthy period as a touting member – breaks out. Whitty is given considerable freedom to roam throughout the album. This can be seen on ‘Chompy’s Paradise’ and the album’s title track, on which the speed and adroitness of Alex Sowinski’s drumming is something to be marvelled. Sowinkski who was recently recruited as a guest percussionist on Kaytranada’s debut album ’99.9%’. Kaytranada returns the favour on ‘IV’ with a track title ‘Lavender’, which characterised by a slow dark deep groove and wobbling interjections of synth, leaving the percussion to carry you over the tumultuous terrain.
The final vocalist to feature on ‘IV’ is another homegrown local from Toronto, Charlotte Day Wilson. The soulful nature of Wilson’s voice paired with the soaring strings on ‘In Your Eyes’ provides a gorgeous juxtaposition that is only to be gawked at…with your ears. Revealing a delicate side to BADBADNOTGOOD, which is usually hidden amongst the cool and intensity of their performances, ’In Your Eyes’ sits happily alongside the record’s diverse array of musical textures and unorthodox instrumentation. On ‘III’ BADBADNOTGOOD established an identity, who they are what they are about. ‘IV’ sees them step back, they have expanded, created a personality, and carved a spot for themselves within the rungs of musical taste, inviting their many musically inclined friends to add to the mixture. What this has resulted in is a finely polished body of work that sees BADBADNOTGOOD explore their many influences as well as tastes, allowing them to express a wide breadth of moods and emotions, communicated through thoughtful and imaginative improvisations and structured melody. The corner stone of Jazz.
Listen to IV in full right here.