A jazz musician studying in an elite academic setting conjures images of drilling scale after scale, worshipping Charlie Parker compilations, muscle memory transformed to play Bitches Brew by heart. Forget everything you know about traditional jazz, and add the careful combination of the following: influences ranging from Joy Division to J Dilla, hilarious promotional videos involving cereal eating parties, donning pig masks at live gigs and an ample dose of unpredictability. Still, it’s impossible to aptly describe one of the most idiosyncratic and promising bands to rise out of a jazz composition background and ample antics, BADBADNOTGOOD.
The band’s latest release sees a decisive turning point for Alex Sowinski (drums), Matt Tavares (keys) and Chester Hansen (bass) as the band tries their hand at crafting a wildly different genre than has ever been seen on any of their releases: dubstep. Minimalist tendencies in the vein of Burial and the eeriness of early ’90s trip-hop converge with the outstanding “CHSTR” and “Vices,” two of the finest tracks on BBNG2. The beginning of “Vices” could easily be mistaken for Portishead, and with Sowinski’s masterful shifts in percussion, Tavares’ gloomy keys andd Hansen’s steady bass, you become entirely immersed in an altogether strange, swelling world. “UWM” exudes as the spine-chilling standout track from BBNG2, with the sultry addition of a saxophone layered over Tavares’ seamless key work, Hansen steadily plucking and thumping along with a double bass, the damn near perfect beat/percussion fusion from Sowinsky wrapping the remarkable original track together.
Similarly to their previous free online release BBNG, BBNG2 features half original material and the other half highly inventive covers. The shockingly talented trio manages to transform covers and simultaneously pay their respect to formative influences — everything from hip-hop legends Gang Starr to The Legend of Zelda and prolific electronic producers Flying Lotus and James Blake — sculpting them into sounds you never could have fathomed in your trippiest dreams.
Synth-heavy “Flashing Lights,” a cover of Kanye West’s track, immediately explodes with a sumptuous array of tight percussion and the gorgeous addition of violin. Ever-present on EPs and previous live releases, Odd Future covers “Bastard/Lemonade” and “Earl” are flawlessly rendered throughout the album. James Blake cover “CMYK” roars with bravado, shifting into a wide spectrum of sounds that ebb and flow from solid key work to an explosion of percussion, only to shift into a thumping beat moments later. Other James Blake cover “Limit To Your Love” (originally a Feist track) also soars, most notably with fluid, erotic basslines. The most unusual track on the album, My Bloody Valentine cover “You Made Me Realise,” sounds like a bonafide punk rendition of the shoegazers’ original track — a testament to the myriad of disciplines that have shaped BADBADNOTGOOD.
After an incredibly serendipitous year — involving collaborations with Tyler, The Creator, homemade videos featuring drum swag and live house party gigs going viral in a matter of days, as well as performing alongside SBTRKT and Jamie XX at Giles Peterson’s worldwide awards in London this past January– 20-somethings BADBADNOTGOOD are entirely redefining the notion of what it means to be a jazz trio, composing contemporary jams that range from hip hop to dubstep to everything in between. Recently announced as Coachella’s resident jazz group at this year’s prolific festival, it’s no surprise that the trio’s BBNG2 resonates as one of 2012’s finest releases to date. Formally a jazz trio on paper — but often strange, forever imaginative, and ultimately revolutionary hip-hop and electronic beatmakers at heart, it’s safe to say that BADBADNOTGOOD is unstoppable at this point.