BADBADNOTGOOD IV Innovation Leisure
While hip-hop has a long history of borrowing from jazz, until recent years it’s been hard to think of stand-out examples of this dynamic in reverse. Toronto four-piece BADBADNOTGOOD remedied this in 2011 when their striking technical ability and inventive reinterpretations of popular hip-hop tracks caught the attention of Tyler, The Creator on Youtube, and their videos subsequently went viral. Incorporating elements of funk, electronic music, contemporary jazz and hip-hop, the band’s oeuvre stood out as unique.
Now on album number five (their numeral album series was interrupted with Sour Soul, a collaborative LP with Ghostface Killah), they’re still delivering. However, their progression has always seemed to unfold in steady, logical steps rather than bold leaps or curveballs. IV is no exception and once again moody atmospherics, elaborate solos and slow-burning tension mark the majority of the tracks. In terms of changes, IV ditches the post-rock trappings of previous releases, at points leaning more towards woozy Hawaiian soundscapes. Speaking Gently introduces Beach House-indebted dream-pop to the mix, while the album’s guest spots highlight the band’s knack for seamlessly integrating different perspectives into their music. Kaytranada collaboration Lavender is a highlight, pitting a skulking bass line and inky black atmosphere against interjections of bright, wailing brass, while Time Moves Slow brings out qualities in Samuel T. Herring’s voice that aren’t quite as prominent in his work fronting Future Islands.
Where the band fall short here is in their lack of risk-taking; which often makes the album fee conservative (Cashmere and In Your Eyes, featuring newcomer Charlotte Day Wilson, in particular feel like filler). While it’s refreshing to see jazz reworked in a contemporary context, it’s hard not to feel like BADBADNOTGOOD could stretch its boundaries much further than this.