Saturday, 10 May 2014

Review of 'III' by BADBADNOTGOOD


The pessimistically named BADBADNOTGOOD are an instrumental jazz trio from Toronto. This is the part where I have to pretend to know lots about jazz.

Here is a picture of people doing 'jazz hands'. The stuff only an expert knows.

To be honest, I shouldn't have to pull out too much foreign terminlogy. The band have got less jazzy on this release making multiple alterations to their style. Whereas previous works felt like spontaneous live recordings, this album feels more fine-tuned and planned out. There are still some jazzy, improvisational solos here and there, but the large majority of the music follows an organised structure of minor key riffs and repeated drum patterns more akin to the post-rock style of a band like Mogwai.

Perhaps one of the most noticeable changes is the addition of extra instrumentation. The piano/bass/drums trio was charming, but limited. Cameos from strings, synths and sax bring in new, exciting flavours to individual songs. Most surprising are the booming electronic bass drums found on ‘Can’t leave the night’ and ‘CS60’. BADBADNOTGOOD’s love of hip hop has been clear since their beginnings when they were doing jazz covers of Odd Future songs. Use of electronic drums ensure that the album is a product of the 21st Century. Amongst the acoustic instrumentation, these electronic trap 808s sound bold and menacing.

If I had one major complaint it would be that the music on this record feels less busy than previous works and therefore at some points less engaging. A focus on brooding build ups and progressions has turned their gripping, unpredictable jazz into something approaching background music at some points during the album. There are a lot of interesting ideas, but the band plays it safe by keeping these ideas tamed down to an accessible level. 

The band have drastically changed their style and I understand why people have been turned off. If there’s one thing that has remained unchanged, it’s the band’s ear for a gloomy atmosphere. BADBADNOTGOOD haven’t gone all bright and cheerful on us and are the same moody and morose musicians at heart.
★★

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