BADBADNOTGOOD are a musical oddity. An instrumental jazz band who broke through with covers of Odd Future tracks in 2011, the Toronto-based group soon found themselves collaborating with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, The Creator, playing live with Frank Ocean and even recording an album with Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah (2015’s ‘Sour Soul’). From the off, they’ve never been afraid of crossing genre lines or playing with artists much bigger than themselves.
BADBADNOTGOOD have also released a series of impressive, experimental albums in their own right. 2014’s ‘III’ was the first to feature only original material, while 2016’s ‘IV’ saw appearances from Future Islands frontman Sam Herring, rapper Mick Jenkins and singer-songwriter Charlotte Day Wilson. For their fifth album, though, BABBADNOTGOOD have dropped the guest vocalists and set about trying to capture the spontaneity of their live shows. It is basically an album of considered jam sessions.
After 10 years of playing together, the trio (now minus founding member Matthew Tavares) know exactly what they’re doing. The instrumentation is tight, the production dynamic. There are appearances from world-renown musicians harpist Brandee Younger and drummer Karriem Riggins – but you wouldn’t know it unless you were told, their contributions part of a sprawling tapestry.
Nine-minute opener ‘Signal From The Noise’ is a suitable epic introduction to the album: Starting sparse and doom-laden, the meandering track quickly explodes into a flurry of funk and thundering drums. It cycles through urgent, melodic and beautiful without missing a beat. Unfortunately, the following tracks are less bold. ‘Unfolding (Momentum 73)’ starts off like the delicate soundtrack to a woodland fairytale before obnoxious brass shatters the illusion and the track fades away before going anywhere.
Likewise, the 100-second ‘Beside April’ feels more like a teaser than a finished track; to really highlight that sensation, it’s reprised later on in the album as a song that lasts just as long as the original. Across the record, there are moments where all the pieces fall into place and BADBADNOTGOOD conjure up something truly thrilling, like the moody ‘Timid Intimidating’. However, these moments are few and far between.
Yes, ‘Talk Memory’ is technically proficient but all too often the record lacks the playful spirit and brash confidence the band carried themselves with in the early days. Without attitude or hooks, it’s all too easy for ‘Talk Memory’ to fade into the background like polite elevator music rather than become the soundtrack to something great.
Release date: October 8
Record label: XL Recordings