The particular brand of electronic-jazz-slash-instrumental hip-hop peddled by Toronto four-piece BADBADNOTGOOD has always been rather idiosyncratic – hardly surprising, given their origins covering and reimagining artists like Tyler, The Creator. There’s no trace of that mimicry in their current output however, for the group has refined that combination of genre into a sound that is truly theirs, and in their most recent effort, IV, the group sounds more comfortable than ever.
There’s a variety of styles here, from the ethereal slow jam of Chompy’s Paradise, to the ominous, heavy synths of their Kaytranada collaboration Lavender. While songs like opener And That, Too and Confessions Pt II with Colin Stetson are more like improvised jam sessions, particularly for the addition of saxophonist Leland Whitty to their permanent line up. His presence is keenly felt throughout the record, as he’s allowed to run wild with solo after solo.
The most obvious change to their formula is the addition of features. Stellar performances from Charlotte Day Wilson, Samuel T Herring (of Future Islands) and Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins make IV a more rounded affair, with each accentuating a different facet of their style. Jenkins, on the eerie Hyssop of Love, brings out a chaotic jazz and hip-hop fusion reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar’s recent work. Meanwhile Wilson and Herring, on In Your Eyes and Time Moves Slow respectively, transport us to golden-era jazz clubs, sliding over the smooth backing tracks like a pair of seasoned lounge singers. All three are album standouts, and emblematic of the increasing versatility of the troupe, seamlessly introducing vocals into their traditionally instrumental soundscapes.
Truth be told there’s little to fault in IV. Building on the momentum from 2015’s Sour Soul with Ghostface Killah, BADBADNOTGOOD have evolved beyond their initial novelty and become a versatile and effortlessly enjoyable group. While jazz continues its steady return to the forefront of popular music, this lot are seeking a seat at an ever more crowded table; but through the continued development of their already unique sound, and their increasingly deft use of features, it seems their place in the canon is very much secure.