BADBADNOTGOOD? More like GOODGOODNOTBAD, am I right? Excuse the cheap pun, but it will all make sense at the end of this review.

Release date: October 8, 2021 | XL Recordings | Facebook | Bandcamp

If you haven’t yet been acquainted with BADBADNOTGOOD, I suggest you fix that as soon as possible. There’s really nothing like them out there in the modern jazz-adjacent scene(s). Their unique approach, that leans heavily into groove, is something truly infectious and will have you moving one way or another, whether you want to or not. While I was very excited to hear that a new album was on the way from them, I expected it to follow more or less in the style of what they had us used to. Surprise, surprise, it’s something entirely different.

First of all, the relentless, hypnotic grooves – that are practically ubiquitous in their pieces – now resemble vestigial remnants, more than a focal point. That’s not something inherently bad or anything, it’s just that it’s a shift that I didn’t expect in any way from the group. I think that, for a band that achieved recognition and a wide fanbase through that, this is a bold and brave move. One that, for the time being, seems to have paid off. Although, we’ll only be able to tell in time how this works out ultimately.

We see the sound of the band on Talk Memory shifting towards a different adjacent area of modern jazz – one that is being helmed by bands like Portico Quartet, Kinkajous, and many others. Things take a much more cinematic or atmospheric approach, mixing post-rock aesthetics with nu-jazz, if we’re going to want to slap a clearer label on what’s going on. Right off the bat, it’s obvious that the band carve their own particular blend, which doesn’t clash with similar-sounding records. Although, I think it’s subject to debate whether this is an increasingly saturated musical niche or otherwise, thus warranting (or not) further explorations – but that’s high-level nitpicking.

Beyond all of that, Talk Memory is a splendid album from BADBADNOTGOOD, with tons of enjoyable moments. There are aspects in which I like this much more than their previous records, as it eases itself into a much more contemplative and wistful series of moods. There’s also something of a narrative feeling when looking at the record as a whole, which is another novel aspect in the band’s approach. It feels like there’s a strongly binding, underlying concept, which takes this narrative form, like a veritable story is being told via the ensuing flow of sounds. I think there’s also a case to be made in regards to the record sort of paying homage to modern and classical influences, as I’m picking up stylings that strongly resemble some of the great jazz artists of the 20th century, alongside a plethora of modern bands.

The dynamics, from a tonal point of view, are quite rich and lush, aiming to explore textures in a holistic manner – not just via sheer composition. I think it would also be worth noting that the level of detail on the record is fitting – to say the least – even though that’s obvious once you delve enough into the meat of things. All of these details ultimately help create the intricate feelings and thoughts that spring into the being of the listener, if you ask me.

To pin a few of these, take the string arrangements from “City of Mirrors”, which create a wholly warm and somehow nostalgic sensation – something which wouldn’t come across as such with different tonalities in the same setting. Similarly, the heavily prog-influenced opener, “Signal from the Noise”, creates something dense and thought-provoking, which is beautifully offset with the slowly evolving patterns in its latter part.

Talk Memory is more of a journey than anything else. It’s definitely something that needs to be taken in through the course of an uninterrupted sitting, or otherwise we’re running the risk of losing a fair deal from its precious package. While I’m personally still on the fence with the band’s stylistic gamble, I definitely enjoyed Talk Memory a lot and I wholeheartedly recommend this latest BADBADNOTGOOD record to anyone looking to get lost in a different world, filled with unique soundscapes.

Robert Miklos

Robert Miklos

What can I say? I love slapping buttons and listening to squiggly air.

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