By reading the liner notes of this record, it would be easy to forgive the listener for thinking that this was going to be the record that would push Toronto natives BADBADNOTGOOD away from their recorded roots in interpretive jazz-hop. In some ways, they’d be correct, but being proved correct feels good, doesn’t it?
Though this is a somewhat feature heavy record in comparison to the now quartet’s previous efforts, it is not an oppressive paradigm; the features are testament not only to the strength of this unit’s composition but also to how the interplay between the four members could easily make for endlessly intriguing music, features or not. BBNG’s IV makes for a listen that bubbles and bursts with stimulus; similar to III, this record is awash with ideas, intelligence and intricacies.
This could arguably be the group’s furthest venture into making typical jazz music (perhaps attributable to new full-time member Leland Whitty), though they remain with their feet planted firmly in the earth of their balanced approach to rhythm and composition. Even the record’s most jazzy tracks, Confessions pt II, IV and Structure no. 4 are seasoned with varying dalliances with hip hop instrumentation, possessing a firm, subtly syncopated beat that consistently wrenches the band back to earth before they stray too far.
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BBNG often retrace their steps, recalling elements from previous work; an obstruction to progression, potentially, but in the case of IV, an obstruction avoided for sure. Time Moves Slow and In Your Eyes are perhaps most guilty of tugging on threads once pulled on Sour Soul, though the swap-out of Ghostface Killah’s colourful, bombastic flow for the soulful vocals of Samuel T. Herring and Charlotte Day Wilson respectively actually heighten the group’s skills in making tasteful neo-soul music.
The ever effortless Mick Jenkins contributes on Hyssop of Love, and is possibly one of the records finest moments, as it manages to show the most evidence of growth, evolved composition and calculated production within the band; undulating synths, subtle woodwind, hip hop drums and jangly, slinky guitar instrumentation represent the finest in BBNG’s merger of hip hop, jazz and electronic music. That lyricism. That outro.
Of course, no musical brew is ever complete without a little touch of nostalgia, and it is here where the record truly comes to life. IV is an album that could easily speak to the soul of a jazz fan, a hip-hop fan and (deep breath) a video game music fan. Though there are no video game music references quite as overt as the reverential Title Theme/Saria’s Song/Song of Storms suite from I, their first record, BBNG manages to recall the work of Koji Kondo and Akira Yamaoka as the band move away from the cuts of Sour Soul and the bangers of III.
Though piano player Matthew Tavares is in full flow pretty much the entire album, it is during the more synthy, bubbly tracks that he pushes the nostalgic element of the music; the breathy, sweeping warmth of his analogue synth sounds push the music into the “gamey” territory, but in no means is this a turnoff. And That, Too and Chompy’s Paradise are so effective in their melodic, warm, gamey vibe that it makes you want to dig out Chrono Trigger and stay indoors for weeks. Bye bye real life.
This is why IV is such a success – BBNG have created digestible, thoughtful compositions that actually make you nod your head, feel nostalgic, wish you could play the sax, zone out and think about the state of your life while you listen. When you listen to IV, you hear nothing but the growth of intelligence and innovation. An essential record for seekers of an audible experience that gets better every time.
This BADBADNOTGOOD article was written by Lawottim Anywar, a GIGsoup contributor