From the opening notes of “And That, Too,” IV was not only instantly recognizable as BadBadNotGood (the newest artist featured through Vinyl Me Please and their monthly subscription program) but also an album defining the quartet as an act that’s more than just “that jazz band that plays hip-hop.” There’s a point on that opening cut where the CS-60 synthesizer rides a low note for so long, I felt like I was hearing the voice of God. It’s intense.
That intensity, combined with a deeper complexity to each track, lets BadBadNotGood become an honest-to-goodness, capital “J” jazz act. Whereas previous albums have leaned more on the Meters end of things, with a jazzy funkiness, this is funky jazz shit. BBNG get dissonant on these tracks, kids, and while they’re unafraid to ride a groove, they’re also willing to skronk it up like James Chance and the Contortions on “Confessions Pt. II.”
If you’re like me, IV is an album you’ve been looking forward to for ages, and that first cut is an absolute validation of that wait. The rest of the album only further reinforces that the two years since III has seen BBNG solidifying their sound into something at once familiar and forward-thinking. 1
Another new aspect of the group’s sound is the preponderance of vocalists on IV. While originally an instrumental act, one figures the addition of singers was inevitable. That inevitability is kind of a mixed bag. I really prefer the likes of “Time Moves Slow,” with Future Islands’ Sam Herring doing a “Me and Mrs. Jones” thing, as opposed to Mick Jenkins on “Hyssop of Love.” I like Jenkins’ flow, and I love the cut, but not the way the two go together. It just seems like they’re both in their own musical worlds, rather than collaborating.
While Karriem Riggins and Alexander Sowinski’s appearance on Kaytranda’s 99.9% worked really well, Kaytranda’s guest spot on IV, titled “Lavender,” is on another level. It’s a sinister, ‘80s horror track, evocative of darkened corridors, with flickering lights and suspicious movement visible in the corner of your eye. While the album as a whole has a darker tone than previous BBNG releases, “Lavender” is an especially bleak track.
After three very good albums, BadBadNotGood has finally released one that’s legitimately great. They’re now more than a group of young dudes doing clever jazz covers of hip-hop, and have become an inventive act in their own right.
The double album sounds amazing. IV is robust and full, sounding as if the band’s playing in your living room, rather than coming out of your speakers. There’s no hiss, no pops, and while it’s absolutely one of the warmest recordings I’ve heard in a while, it does tend to do better on the low end than with the highs. When the volume gets pushed on the title track, you can hear it begin to redline and bury the needle a bit. It’s fine every so often on other tracks when the occasional peaks of enthusiasm fuzz out the sound a little, but when sustained, the effect becomes an irritant.
The vinyl is a gorgeous translucent magenta, and points to Vinyl Me, Please for not just getting an exclusive colorway on the records, but changing the blue of the commercially-released cover to a canary yellow. It’s certainly distinct. Putting the lineup information on the front cover is a nice touch, reminiscent of old-school jazz LPs, and shows there’s thought in every aspect of this release, not just the music.
There’s a download code. There’s also a sticker with the band photo from the cover, along with further liner notes on a card. The VMP art print is a little jazzy, a little Twilight Zone, but nice enough. The cocktail actually sounds simple enough that it might be worth trying, as well.