BADBADNOTGOOD: Talk Memory

From the instrumental dreamscapes surmounted by the Canadian group BADBADNOTGOOD the album Talk Memory was released October 8th on XL recording. BBNG is a unique group; Matthew Tavares, Alexander Sowinski, and Chester Hansen are jazz-trained musicians whose renditions of hip-hop instrumentals garnered notoriety and acclaim from names like Odd Future and Ghostface Killah fairly early on in their career and catalyzed the undercurrent of underground and east-coast hip-hop listeners who were just renewing their interest in the hip-hop genre with the outbreak of Odd Future. The group now holds two Grammy awards for their co-productions on Kendrick Lamar’s Damn and Thundercat’s It Is What It Is among a number of other notable accolades.

Talk Memory is a major point of growth for BBNG, being made up entirely of original music. There’s nothing else which quite anticipates these darlings, having one foot in street, one on the walk. The structure of the songs are fluid and alike to classical orchestral pieces, but shone through a lens of jazz, although with ears fully immersed in tasteful contemporary artists like Frank Ocean, Wu Tang Clan, Kurt Cobain, Sun Ra, and so on. Who else just does that?

Regardless, this album appears to be a true maturation on its preceding record: IV which leaned away from the hip-hop genre and into the more popular movements of its time. Talk Memory has been criticized for its lack of brazen looseness and originality which arguably brought the band much of its recognition; while it is a shame we don’t see so much of the notorious, improvised madness of songs like their rendition of Gucci Mane’s “Lemonade,” what is lost in fervor is reconciled by clarity and refinement.

The songs bleed into one another, maintaining a melodic motif which becomes most apparent in “City of Mirrors” and “Beside April.” Beginning in “Signal From The Noise” in the erratic, distorted bass-lines, the image is gathered in “Unfolding (Momentum 73)” and takes shape in “City of Mirrors” and finally arrives, fully conducted, in “Beside April” before “Love Proceeding” brings the audience down to be unraveled by “Timid, Intimidating.” Finally the reprise of “Beside April” reconjoins the tone before the final track on the album, also titled “Talk Memory,” serves as a salutary deconstruction in closing. The album itself, like an event, takes the Friday-night listener on a fun addendum; something to talk about, surely.

Talk Memory is perhaps BADBADNOTGOOD’s most jazz-inspired and character-defining album to date, standing alone among their discography as a noteworthy moment in contemporary jazz and an unforeseen movement in today’s music scene.

Rating: 8.1/10

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