BADBADNOTGOOD mesmerise Brixton Academy with jazz masterclass

The jazz trio bring their instrumental vortex swirling into London

Across the pond, Canadian jazz trio BADBADNOTGOOD have been at the forefront of the genre’s re-popularisation in recent years – leaning into hip-hop credentials by collaborating with artists like Tyler, The Creator, Kendrick Lamar, and Ghostface Killah. 

With their most recent full-length album however, Talk Memory, the formerly DJ Shadow-sounding band stepped out of the shadow of their trip-hop trappings by serving up grandiose and transportive instrumentals. They gave London exactly that, getting a rapturous response throughout their sold-out show at Brixton Academy.

Blasting out Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ as an intro to their performance set the tone for what was to come, as bassist Chester Hansen tentatively took to the stage and jammed out his best Geezer Butler impression, silhouetted in front of an ominously flickering spotlight before the rest of the collective joined him to transition into ‘Signal For A Noise’. The opener from Talk Memory is (without wanting to overuse the term) a bonafide odyssey, and Brixton were treated to an epicly sludgy version, complete with bassy Sabbath-esque beef. 

Over ten minutes in length, it took drummer and default hype man Alexander Sowinski to snap the 5,000-strong crowd out of their trance as the track came to a close, asking “we still feeling good?” After a hefty bout of whoops and cheers, BADBADNOTGOOD re-entered their instrumental vortex, shrouded in darkness with only a minimal projection as visual support – the emphasis was entirely on their music. 

Bleeding in and out of tracks like ‘City Of Mirrors’ and ‘Unfolding (Momentum 73)’, the five-piece relied heavily on material from Talk Memory, as expected. The exception proved ‘Confessions’ from their 2014 debut album III, that came as a welcome inclusion for all the die-hards in attendance. At least for the Talk Memory era, BADBADNOTGOOD seemingly want to distance themselves from the trip-hop-come-jazz tag that’s arguably defined them to date, instead delving into a more proggy, psychedelic realm. The washed-out, multi-coloured double exposure 35mm footage projected throughout certainly added to that notion, complete with dancing girls and liberated bodies swimming in water as the band wigged out. 

As the sauntering romanticism of ‘Love Proceeding’ began to draw their set to a close, it was clear that there was no room for guest vocals – there was an air of anticipation that perhaps Future Island’s Samuel T. Herring would join for ‘Time Moves Slow’ or Charlotte Day Wilson on ‘In Your Eyes’. Not this time, as the jazz troupe let their music do the talking. Not bad BADBADNOTGOOD, not bad at all.

Find tickets for BADBADNOTGOOD here as they continue their UK run in December.