sun 14/07/2024

Album: BADBADNOTGOOD - Talk Memory | reviews, news & interviews

Album: BADBADNOTGOOD - Talk Memory

Album: BADBADNOTGOOD - Talk Memory

Jazz/hip-hop mavericks' psychedelic voyage has a Hollywood ending

Jazz’s most popular expressions today stand on or just over its borders: Thundercat’s rubbery bass virtuosity and dreamy laptop soul, Robert Glasper’s improv R&B, Squarepusher’s spontaneous electronica, Snarky Puppy’s jam-band anthems, GoGo Penguin’s rave piano trio, or The Bad Plus’s rock covers.

Jazz and hip-hop’s relationship was meanwhile deep-rooted long before Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) became the decade’s most important album for jazz, lifting collaborators such as Kamasi Washington into the stratosphere, and awakening popular interest in analogue instrumental fireworks; London’s self-ignited young jazz explosion is similarly genre-deaf, splicing fluency in Afrobeat, bop and grime into post-swing rhythms.

Which is to say that the jazz border wars once raging around BADBADNOTGOOD have ceased to apply. Academically fluent in jazz harmonics but avid hip-hop fans, the Canadians’ support from Tyler, the Creator in 2010 has led to stellar collaborations from Ghostface Killah to Rihanna, to Kendrick’s DAMN and Black Panther soundtrack.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Talk Memory is the first BADBADNOTGOOD album in five years. It’s been described as a return to roots, which could mean anything from MF Doom to Sun Ra. It’s actually a brightly coloured psychedelic voyage, embarked on with audible optimism and love. Nine-minute opener “Signal From the Noise”, co-produced by Floating Points, begins with an industrial hum, haunted keyboards giving way to stalking brass, rushing electric guitar, a still, pastoral pause, mesmeric chimes and a final fall back into a buzzing swirl. It’s a ritualistic start, a ceremony clearing the ground to be covered.

Alexander Sowinski’s soft drum tattoo, Leland Whitty’s rolling, dipping sax and guest Brandee Younger’s sympathetically rippling harp help the band press on through the aptly titled “Unfolding (Momentum 73)”, exploring and parting veils. Solos are integrated into a unified approach, returning to primal, New Orleans verities. But it’s Talk Memory’s rich use of strings which helps define its wide, warm world. On “City of Mirrors”, they speak the language of lush urban romance, equal parts spiritual jazz and Hollywood, Kamasi Washington and the Hart to Hart theme.

“Open Channels” is a classic Side 2 opener, announcing a new journey as the sax rises into hazy caves of keyboard stalactite-drips and hi-hat waterfalls. “Timid Intimidating” then deploys flute and soprano sax, speeding fuzz-guitar and tumbling break-beats, before the title track further reconsiders the increasingly malleable tradition of jazz(-like) piano trios. Dramatic and emotional, varied and coherent, questing and effervescent, Talk Memory is a worthy return.

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