By Kristopher Tondre
Label: Innovative Leisure
Release Date: Jul. 8, 2016
Growing up, my mom always had an eclectic musical taste. I remember going to school in her old Chevy Astro while listening to cassette tapes of Swahili hymns, church music or the top 40 stations that we’d turn to on the radio dial. As time progressed, her selection of songs and albums has only grown further with additions like Sade and Norah Jones entering the mix as well as a local station that plays nothing but jazz records. Such classics as John Coltrane, B.B. King and Duke Ellington were among the many artists I’d hear when spending time with my mom. I may have been too young to fully appreciate the sounds I was hearing then but BADBADNOTGOOD could be the introduction to jazz I was missing all this time.
BBNG had been a name I kept seeing posted online among some of the music blogs I frequent, but I never dug too deep besides a shallow listen into whatever their latest tune was. With the release of their collaborative project with rapper Ghostface Killah, Sour Soul, I took a more active listen to what it was they had to offer and found myself to be blown away. Now, with the release of their fourth studio album, IV, BBNG continues to color me impressed with the music they’re creating.
Now officially a quartet after adding multi-instrumentalist Leland Whitty, who has worked with the group playing saxophone, viola, violin and guitar since they released BBNG2, this Canadian musical group goes even further into new sounds as they’ve elected to collaborate with multiple other artists including Sam Herring of Future Islands, Kaytranada and rapper Mick Jenkins. Before this, BBNG had only ever worked with other instrumentalists such as Whitty and Luan Phung, and record producer Frank Dukes, so immediately this was going to be a new experience in comparison to past releases.
What’s created though, as IV plays out, is an intense orchestration of shifting moods and tempos that bustles along like a city bus going deep into the heart of the city on a warm summer day. The almost frantic sounds of “Confessions Pt. II” with saxophonist Colin Stetson, the sequel to the original off of their album III, takes listeners on a ride as a feeling of anxiousness picks up taking you deeper, and deeper, and deeper, right before it mellows out and begins to build up a steady buzz in further anticipation.
Right before this track though, is the slow burning sounds of “Time Moves Slow” with Sam Herring. The smoky sounds as Herring laments the pain that comes with facing your problems, versus taking the seemingly easier path by electing to run away from those difficulties, portrays this feeling of anguish as the record plays on.
From front to back, BBNG and collaborators create an array of sounds and emotions that carry the listener along on a trip of highs and lows that will have you both swaying along like tree limbs in a warm, gentle breeze, or increase your heart rate as the tempo picks up like maneuvering through rush hour traffic in the city. I think the best example of this would be the nearly seven-minute title track, “IV,” as the band switches up the speed at which they play multiple times throughout the record, to where just when you get accustomed to the silky smooth instrumentation they then proceed to rev it up at a breakneck pace before, again, taking things at a slower pace. It’s a jam session of epic proportions that’ll take you through an intense journey of high and lows.
It’s been quite awhile since I found myself so enamored with a musical release, but BBNG’s IV has awaken feelings from all across the spectrum as the album goes into rotation. This quartet of young musicians from just up north have created a captivating album that almost dictates listeners to just lay or sit back and take in the sounds that come pouring out of the headphones, speakers or whatever device used to play this record. Now, I have music I can introduce my mother to after all the years of falling under the influence of what she had to offer.