On their fourth proper album (not counting Sour Soul, their full-length collaboration with Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah), Canadian jazz group BadBadNotGood expand their sound, welcoming several guest artists as well as introducing new musical influences and instruments. It's their first release to include saxophonist and longtime associate Leland Whitty as an official member of the band, joining drummer Alex Sowinski, bassist Chester Hansen, and keyboard player Matthew Tavares. The album incorporates more electronics, drum machines, and production tricks into the group's sound than previous efforts, echoing various shades of library music and Krautrock. There's a greater dynamic range, moving from relaxed lounge-ready grooves to more aggressive percussion attacks. Sowinski is an incredibly agile drummer, deftly carrying the rhythm while adding sophisticated details that seem like natural impulses to someone who's grown up listening to breakbeats chopped up by hip-hop producers. He goes beyond the call of duty, never seeming like he's merely keeping a beat for the other musicians. Yet he doesn't overpower them either. Every musician works together and forms a complex yet naturally flowing whole. Of the songs that feature guests, "Time Moves Slow" with Future Islands crooner Samuel T. Herring is the clear standout. BBNG remixed the Baltimore-based synth pop group's signature tune "Seasons (Waiting on You)," and this calmly paced yet devastating breakup ballad seems like its logical sequel. Colin Stetson adds his superhuman baritone sax rumbling to "Confessions, Pt. 2" over the band's Brubeck-nodding tricky time signatures. It gets abrasive and intense, as Stetson's mind-blowing performances typically do, and he seems to get into a trance. At six minutes, the piece is one of the album's longest, but Stetson can go on for much longer and get even more otherworldly, so it seems like he's harnessing his energy a bit here, possibly in the interest of not stealing the show. "Lavender" features producer Kaytranada, and starts off with an RJD2-ish synth-led groove before making a brief detour into bouncy disco funk. IV's title track showcases BBNG at their most exhilarating, beginning with a blindingly fast yet tight rhythm, switching through faster and slower movements, and ending with an extended sax solo. Chicago MC Mick Jenkins rhymes over "Hyssop of Love," continuing to highlight the group's beatmaking abilities. Another sad but pretty soul ballad appears near the end of the album, as fellow Toronto resident Charlotte Day Wilson yearns atop the strings and flutes of "In Your Eyes." Classy cocktail jazz number "Cashmere" ends the album, also with elegant strings. It's easy to see why BBNG are the type of jazz group that appeals to people who normally don't care for jazz. They're music lovers, first and foremost, and they're directly in tune with what's happening in the music world. They blend numerous influences and don't conform to any traditions. More than anything, their music is exuberant and immensely enjoyable.
© Paul Simpson /TiVo