Tuesday, 17 April 2012

BadBadNotGood - BBNG2

Over the past few years, hip-hop has started to find a hipper way of being hip-hop. In the post-chillwave phase of the internet, and everyone taking influence from classic styles (sort of an interenaissance if you will), hip hop has been one of the main focuses of people’s attention. Coupling that with the genre blending retro obsessions of late, it is only typical that a second look is a more considered one. This has led to folk taking staples and expected ideas of making music and shaking them up, communing them with others or simply approaching them in a different way. One of which would be Canadian based BADBADNOTGOOD.

On the end of their self released, free-to-download (or FTD. Yes, I am going to create an acronym for bands who are committed to free downloadable content. You gonna cry about it or are you going to accept the future, fuckstick?) debut album, a sound clip of the band goofing is heard, and the drummer Alex is asked what he thinks of a staple jazz classic. He basically says that people involved in the jazz world are so stuck on ‘classics’ that they never write any new music, or try to evolve the genre. A bold statement, but a true one, I feel. And they are reliant ambassadors of their own philosophy too, fusing tight and technical hip hop beats with jazz sensibilities. The cake is jazz, the icing is not.

With that comes album number two. I’ve hit a few different places with this one. Some feelings I like a lot, some less so. A lot more of the tracks on BBNG2 are original tracks. In the past, taking the jazz tradition, they were known for jazzolving (yep. I said it) a few Odd Future songs on some old demos, and other hip hop based (l-o-l) tracks on BBNG1. On this new album, they have an adapted version of their cover of 'Bastard / Lemonade' (originally by Tyler the Creator and the other by Gucci Maine) into a shorter version than the demo version which also included another Tyler track, in ‘AssMilk’. However, I personally do not prefer the new version. I like the way it opens with that ominous and meandering jazz keyboard, however as for the rest of the track, it just gets a bit repetitive. In the original, because of the included other tracks within it, it gave it more room for variation and you weren’t left on a certain chord progression for too long. However, with this version, by the halfway mark, the entire track has said all it needs to say, and from then on it basically reiterates it.

And this is a problem I have with a few of the tracks on this album. There are a lot of appealing chords and it all sounds shimmering and lovely, but in terms of the songs in their entirety, there seems to be a lot of track length, but not a lot of variation. A lot of these tracks will have a set impression of chords or stanza, and will basically reiterate it, alternate it and poke at it until the track finishes. I’m thinking of 'Rotten Decay', 'Vices', 'CHSTR' and the aforementioned 'Bastard / Lemonade'. And sadly, it happens more times than it does not, in honesty. It’s almost as if, they’ve gotten into a mould of being more hip-hop than jazz that they’ve become a bit more loopy than beautifully meanderingly jazzy - which is a shame. Personally, I want more jazz and less loop, please.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are parts of this album I really like. When the track (and therefore video) for 'UWM' dropped prior to the album being up for FTD (HEHEHEH), I really liked it. There was a bit more of a jazz progression going on in the chord progression, whilst still having some basis of chords. It just felt like it had more parts, and peeks and flows and it had kept to that improvised feel I enjoyed so much about BBNG. Also, I really like the saxophone work by Leland Whitty on this and in all other parts he is on in the album. He brings that classic brass jazz element into the mix, keeping it sporadic and awesome. An advisable move would be to get him in for future work, I feel - he adds a lot to the sound and keeps the sound fresh and funky. 

All in all, I’m not sold yet on BBNG2. Although I do like the way it is mixed as the sounds are lush and come off really well and there are a lot of nice chords the trio throw into the mix here, I feel there could have been less of an attempt to write strict songs and more of a dedication to their improvisational elements, of which, they do very well. Either way, it’s definitely worth a DL and who knows - it’s probably a grower. 


Eliot Humphreys 

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