IV, the appropriately-titled latest release from the Toronto jazz band BADBADNOTGOOD is their finest effort yet. It is a sprawling blend of hip-hop as well as soul, free, and experimental jazz. While it is their first project to feature guest vocalists, it is also the first that is wholly their own, with none of the excellent covers of rap songs that graced past releases, but all of the character and technical virtuosity that the trio-cum-quartet have displayed in the past.
Yet another first is the addition of saxophonist Leland Whitty as a permanent member. This relationship pays dividends on tracks like Chompy’s Paradise, IV, and especially Confessions Pt. II, the sequel to their previous collaboration on III, this time aided by Bon Iver member Colin Stetson. This six-and-a-half minute sax odyssey begins in baritone then stretches to all corners of the instrument’s capabilities. The free-flowing, silky sax adds several more layers to the average BBNG song already brimming with vibrant textures.
The addition of a new member has not damaged the easy chemistry in the band and has only accentuated their mastery of a melody as they stretch, contort or otherwise subvert it to fit their needs. Vocalists like Future Islands’ frontman Sam Herring and Toronto singer Charlotte Day Wilson punctuate their tracks with the former’s heartfelt delivery and the latter’s soul balladry. Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins guests on Hyssops of Love, preaching for the natural intoxication of love in his familiar, laidback flow. Haitian-Canadian producer Kaytranada drops by Lavender for an electric, trip-hop experiment that is like no other track in the band’s discography.
With the release of IV, BBNG has cemented themselves as an act entirely without peer in the mainstream music world. Matthew Tavares’ elegant keyboards, Chester Hansen’s propulsive bass, and Alexander Sowinski’s foundational drums all contribute to youthful jazz band with a passionate love of hip-hop, at the same time dabbling in funk, soul, blues and electronica. If that sounds like a lot to take in, then welcome to the music of BADBADNOTGOOD.
Overall rating: 4/5.