Posted on May 29th, 2014 (12:00 pm) by Maxwell Weigel

Over their four years as a musical collective, BadBadNotGood have essentially garnered enough merits and skills worthy of the Humber College degree that most of the band abandoned. Their defiant nature and ambition have pulled them away from what they consider to be their cookie-cutter jazz education, more likely to cull what they consider to be standards from the works of the GOOD Music collective than anything ever recorded on the Blue Note label.

This attitude has proven successful, as members of Odd Future have copped their talents for productions and live performances. As the jazz world struggles to place these wunderkinds (consisting of Matthew Tavares on keys, Chester Hansen on bass and Alexander Sowinski on drums) within their own lineage, BadBadNotGood seem more content to hone a sound that gradually is becoming harder to define. Offering their latest record of all originals III in hopes of some cash this time around (they released their first two studio albums online themselves), the trio present their most distilled, confident and refined version of their vision yet.

The presentation of III remains crucial to the product. As much as the album’s title appears to tie them to an age-old tradition of bands too lazy to conjure up a proper title for their third effort, it also serves to accentuate the importance of their format. Keyboards, bass and drums compete with (yet never eclipse) each other to fill out the cavernous, crisp space that the band produced themselves with the help of Frank Duke.

Group interplay remains integral to the album’s success; when Hansen inserts the main melody into Tavares’ whole note flourishes on “Hedron,” the two exude a sense of comfort that unifies this tune, which becomes more labyrinthine as it unfolds. The pig-mask wearing Sowinski’s percussive contributions play just as important melodic role as the other instruments. He hardly ever repeats a rhythm verbatim, instead remaining more content to insert scattershot ornamental embellishments and flipping a beat around with little warning.

Gone are the days of getting by on the kitsch of re-interpreting hip-hop productions (although their remix of Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s “Shame” shows them donning Blaxploitation stylings quite convincingly). III contains no covers, enabling BadBadNotGood to flex their previously impressive compositional chops into territories heretofore unexpected. “Differently, Still” presents candle-lit jazz that would have made their former Humbert professors proud, albeit with an underlying sinister edge ensuring that it never feels tired. The seven-minute long “Kaleidoscope” reaches near-symphonic heights highlighted by horns and guitar, although these instruments never overshadow the core nucleus of drums, piano and bass. The idea of live trap music risks a sense of instrumental simplicity, yet “Can’t Leave The Night” and “CS60” both contain hard-hitting drops, bass, and beats that impress as much as they evoke TNGHT and Flying Lotus (both of whom they have covered live).

Their intricate arrangements sometimes get the better of them, such as on the turnabout in “Since You Asked Kindly” that switches on a dime from jazzy dub to electrified dance-punk. Nevertheless, such compositional fancies never feel forced, instead showing a band more than eager to reach beyond whatever genre restrictions have been placed upon them. As they undoubtedly shoot toward new frontiers following III, we will remain vigilant to see just what direction BadBadNotGood adopts next.

Track List:

  1. Triangle
  2. Can’t Leave The Night
  3. Confessions (feat. Leland Whitty)
  4. Kaleidoscope
  5. Eyes Closed
  6. Hedron
  7. Differently, Still
  8. Since You Asked Kindly
  9. CS60
BadBadNotGood - III
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

86 / 100
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