Canadian trio Badbadnotgood (BBNG) apply keys, bass and drums and a jazz approach to hip-hop and funk music. But they also have hip-hop credentials (working with Odd Future associates, remixing Soulja Boy, producing tracks for Earl Sweatshirt and Danny Brown) they now apply to jazz, their music is in fact a constant dialogue between the two. So far there have been two self-titled studio releases and two self-titled live albums – here’s their third studio album, it manages (Confessions) to recreate the Dr Dre and DJ Shadow grooves that have been built from John Carpenter scores and David Axelrod productions, it manages to make a version of this music that never quite feels like the po-faced gimmick of, say The Bad Plus; there’s more room to breathe here than with Dawn of Midi.
III starts off with Triangle, stabs at the piano and cymbals indicate (yet) another trio jazz album but when that bass-line enters you can feel the start of a hip-hop dance party. Matthew Tavares’ piano starts to strike out busily while Alexander Sowinski (drums) drives the groove, punctuating in places with big cymbal crashes – it feels like a heavy-funk version of The Greg Foat Group.
Can’t Leave The Night starts on an overt hip-hop beat, you could fool yourself into adlibbing lines about being in da club – or expect an MC to enter with something similar, before the sprinkled hue of more Axelrod-like ideas and a Bluezium-meets-Dawn of Midi groove takes this into a different space altogether, acid-jazz and trance rubbing each other down after dark.
The gritty lock of the drums and bass inform Kaleidoscope, a taut rhythmic puzzle, the bass guitar rubbing its muzzle into any and every nook and most crannies within this groovy-as-tune/tune-as-groove.
Eyes Closed has more chisels of bass and cymbals before Hedron slows things down with staccato clips of hi-hat dancing in and around soft piano chords.
The closest to actual jazz – even though the feeling of jazz is across every tune, in some space – arrives with ballad Differently, Still. Here it’s about the smoky club atmosphere, the piano lines dancing off the keys and floating up into the cloud that hovers just above the circling swish-swash of brushes.
It’s a nice moment before the pounce of dance and hip-hop returns (Since You Asked Kindly) and dark ambient meets with a surge of bass-propelled dance-funk for CS60.
It’s a huge journey of sound from three young players still evolving, still finding out where they’re going – you get the feeling the audience might know just as soon as the musicians do. III is a rush. It bursts with ideas, it bristles against jazz, it subverts instrumental hip-hop, it places the band’s work at the forefront of future-jazz, an organic trio that can keep up with the mad-scientist beat-makers, a combo that has been inspired by hip-hop’s cleverest producers and players as well as knowing the chops from jazz, offering a new path for young jazz players and old listeners alike.