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Album review: Badbadnotgood ‘III’

Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on June 12, 2014

Badbadnotgood are a Canadian jazz trio who have been turning heads since their debut release in 2011. Bringing such a traditionally impenetrable genre to the forefront of contemporary hip hop cannot have been an easy feat. After a two year wait, the much-anticipated III is a melting pot of creativity, experimentation and incredible talent.

It is so, so awesome that BBNG have done such great collaborations with modern day hip hop heavyweights including Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt, RZA and Ghostface Killah. Their virtuosity and talent is unmatched, their attitude abou tthe state of jazz is great, and they’re simply delightful both on record and in the live setting.

The album starts with a few jarring chords before easing into a swift, jazzy rhythm with dark undertones. There’s enough regularity and rhythm that a casual listener can probably enjoy it as much as a jazz aficionado, but it’s not without the expected hurdles.

Can’t Leave The Night begins with an impossibly simple-yet-beautiful keyboard theme, and the track continues to build and soften, build and soften between each phrase. I love how the beat builds up and grows more and more frantic, before quietening down, only to make space for another bulge and an ever-expanding variation.

Confessions begins with another slick keyboard theme, before transposing and transporting into a sensual saxophone lead. The smooth syncopation is delectable. Kaleidoscope features  some seriously astounding bass work, and as a one-time jazz bassist myself, this was a personal favourite.

Eyes Closed is sparse and mysterious, and not as melodically accessible as the previous tracks. It toys with sound and silence before the beat and rhythm grows in energy and speed. The soundscape grows and soars, before tapering right down to a minimalist close. Hedron kicks in with a fairytale-like piano trickle, which makes way for a deep rhythm that carries through the rest of the track. Differently, Still features a divinely intricate and beautiful piano lead, with some of the more romantic chords found on the album.

Since You Asked Kindly starts with an eerie, eerie soundscape, a low bass and a disconcertingly racy drum beat. As the main phrases kick in, it only gets faster, louder and more unsettling – although there are some really beautiful harmonies heard throughout.

Final track CS60 features a beat that’s about as ‘catchy’ and dance-centric as BBNG get, and it’s not hard to imagine this being the seriously over-qualified accompaniment to a Pharaoh Monch or Frank Ocean track. The album comes to a close with yet another eerie wash of tones, which doesn’t so much fade away as it does coagulate and combine into a single sound.

III certainly took a number of listens before I could really appreciate the sheer musical beauty of it all, but it’s absolutely worth it. Badbadnotgood have created a really unique and amazing sound, infusing jazz with hip hop beats in a way which I can’t really compare to any other music out there.

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