BADBADNOTGOOD: Talk Memory (XL/Innovative Leisure) | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, January 16th, 2022  


Talk Memory

XL/Innovative Leisure

Nov 09, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Innovators are so often outsiders. Take composer Arthur Verocai. In 1972, drawing from a wealth of influences including rock antagonist Frank Zappa, jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, and French composer Claude Debussy, the then 27 year-old former Rio-Niterói engineer and music director for Brazil’s largest TV station released his self-titled debut album (how’s that for a 10-dollar sentence?). Its fusion of funk grooves, jazz keyboards, and soaring string arrangements didn’t receive any radio play and gathered dust on record shelves in his native Brazil. Put simply: it never found an audience. What followed was a self-imposed exile into the world of advertising music (a fate debatably worse than death).

But sometimes, when the material is good enough, your audience finds you. For Verocai, his audience was 30 years away: underground hip-hop producers like MF DOOM, 9th Wonder, and Madlib, the latter of which once said he could listen to Verocai’s album “every day for the rest of my life.”

His audience also includes the members of Toronto’s self-described jazz school rejects, BADBADNOTGOOD. Like Verocai, they’ve found salvation in hip-hop. Their bonefides include a production credit on Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. and playing backing band for a full-length album collaboration with Wu-Tang Clan’s finest, Ghostface Killah, on Sour Soul. But at their core, BADBADNOTGOOD are a jazz fusion group, a less provocative association these days if only because the band no longer incites jazz-gatekeepers through performative stunts like dismissing John Coltrane’s Giant Steps as “crap” (which, to their credit, they later walked back). After all, even stuffy gatekeepers have to acknowledge that jazz is an ever-evolving genre built on innovation. For if Miles Davis had simply ignored the cultural force of rock ‘n’ roll, there’d be no In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, or Jack Johnson and the world would be a far worse place for it.

Of course, BADBADNOTGOOD’s Leland Whitty, Chester Hansen, and Al Sow don’t have the improv chops of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and John McLaughlin. Nobody does. But they are incredibly talented arrangers and producers. On Talk Memory, the group shakes off a five-year hiatus and the departure of keyboardist Matthew Tavares with their most musically expansive album yet, weaving a cinematic series of musically diverse arrangements.

It opens with the ambitious “Signal from the Noise”—static that unfolds into a haunting melody before catapulting into a kick-ass bass guitar solo. With production cues from Floating Points (whose album with Pharaoh Sanders is one of this year’s best), it’s a satisfyingly organic momentum build that pays off.

The aforementioned Verocai provides string arrangements on the album and they’re absolutely gorgeous. On “City of Mirrors,” they’re the lush centerpiece at the forefront of the mix, as with the reprise of “Beside April,” where they playfully accompany simple-yet-lovely classical piano. The original “Beside April” features acclaimed percussionist Kareem Riggins playing brushes on the kit.

Album closer “Talk Meaning” is a climactic conclusion to the record, following a jumpy bassline into an imaginative erratic Terrace Martin (producer of Kendrick Lamar’s “For Free?” among other credits) saxophone solo, capped off by a Brandee Younger’s soothing harp. However, laid back jam “Love Proceeding” is the album’s crown jewel. Here, everything comes together in a harmonious mix; where Verocai’s strings soar atop mellow saxophones and a tight, driving rhythm section that seamlessly shift from section to section. It’s engaging without being abrasive, diverse while still forming into one cohesive composition.

And that’s what really sets Talk Memory apart from the rest of BADBADNOTGOOD’s catalogue: its cohesion. Talk Memory is their most compositionally refined album yet, an ode to their maturity as songwriters and their abilities as conceptualists; a form of anti-bombast; a subtle listen that soothes just as often as it surprises; that not only wears its influences on its sleeves but invites them to the recording studio. Don’t miss it. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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