ALBUM REVIEW: Talk Memory by BADBADNOTGOOD
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WRITTEN BY: Will Kirkpatrick
BADBADNOTGOOD returns to the studio after five years with their newest album, Talk Memory, released October 8th, 2021. In the interim period between their last album, IV (2016), they have not been silent, collaborating with artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Kali Uchis, MF DOOM and even becoming the musical backdrop to Louis Vuitton’s Spring/ Summer 2019 runway show. Returning the favor, Virgil Abloh helped the band with the packaging of their album. Needless to say, BBNG has made themselves an extensive resume.
Over the summer, BBNG released the first single, “Signal from the Noise”, a 9-minute jazz epic with an amazing overdriven bass solo. The second and last single, “Besides April,” introduced listeners to Arthur Verocai, a Brazilian composer who arranged the string parts for 5 of the songs on the record.
The songs were written out but the recordings on the album are improvised studio jams. The band said, “We hope that the improvised studio performances bring the listener closer to our live experience.”
Coming in at 42 minutes, this album does not overstay its welcome and the songs do not hit a lull at all. The first impressions were strong, and the flow of the songs and the album felt like a movie soundtrack. Fittingly, the band released a visual album to go with the record (a copy of which could not be found to speak on).
“Signal from the Noise” starts the music train strong; it revs us up, beginning as a very spacy open soundscape that evolves into a fast and hard jam. The track acts as a thesis for the rest of the album: beautiful, dense, and intense.
“City of Mirrors” lives up to the name. The arpeggios in the string section feel like you’re flying through a city. It’s fast-paced and exciting. The piano solo is complex and emotional, leading very well back into the string melody that ends the track.
The track “Love Proceeding” is the high point of record, with Verocai’s amazing string work creating a beautiful atmosphere. The song brings us on a journey and the accompanying music video is beautiful as well. The video takes us through life as a teen living in the Regent Park neighborhood of Toronto and the backdrop of this song makes it feel like the intro to a movie.
Throughout the entire album, the three core members of BADBADNOTGOOD shine. Leland Whitty’s saxophone playing is virtuosic—his arpeggio runs are blazing and each note sings. Chester Hensen plays with pinpoint precision; every note in his bass lines is placed perfectly. Al Sow’s drum grooves bring it together to make the magic that is BADBADNOTGOOD.
The album comes to a close with “Talk Meaning.” It’s fast, it’s exciting and the band gently puts us back down to earth with a beautiful harp outro by Brandee Younger.
The trio has truly outdone their previous efforts, evolving beyond just a group of jazz students from Toronto covering rap songs for their old-school jazz professors.
With Talk Memory, BBNG pulls their influences together and creates something that transcends jazz. The only downfall of the album is how dense the music is—the casual appeal is lacking. Most of these songs would be fairly jarring put next to other songs on a ‘normal playlist’. But you can’t knock the record for this: the musicianship is amazing, the compositions are great, and the production is killer.
Anyone who considers themselves a fan of jazz, movie scores, or is just curious about the record should give this a listen. If you somehow don’t have 42 minutes to spare to sit down and take it all in, Signal from the Noise, Besides April, Love Proceeding, and Talk Meaning are a must listen. If you like Talk Memory, give BADBADNOTGOOD’s Spotify Live concert a listen along with IV.
1. Signal from the Noise
2. Unfolding (Momentum 73)
3. City of Mirrors
4. Beside April
5. Love Proceeding
6. Timid, Intimidating
7. Besides April (Reprise)
8. Talk Meaning