Flute, congas, bass, drums, guitar and clavinet; this unconventional arrangement of instruments intertwine to form the
debut album by Badge Époque Ensemble – a group of creative improvisers assembled to perform new, largely
instrumental compositions by Maximilian ‘Twig’ Turnbull (formerly Slim Twig).
Badge employs an eclectic cast of characters from the Toronto underground music scene, whose combined experience
would take pages to spell out. It includes stints accompanying songwriters Andy Shauf and Marker Starling, outfitting
heavies Blood Ceremony and Biblical, and respective careers spent gigging Django-jazz and the classical cannon. Badge’s
distinctive sound arises from the diversity of these musical exploits, creating a palpable chemistry well captured on the
live-tracked songs that form the group’s self-titled debut.
Part of this crucial chemistry can be attributed to the fact that four of the six players in the Ensemble have been at the
core of the live, U.S. Girls band, a group that has scorched stages internationally over the past year and was hailed by
Paste magazine as the best live band of 2018. Since 2015, when Turnbull released his final record as Slim Twig for DFA,
he has largely concentrated his efforts as a producer and writer on the U.S. Girls project, together with making
contributions to the theatrical rock outfit, Darlene Shrugg and the psychedelic jazz-funk collective, The Cosmic Range.
Badge’s set of songs is yet another 180-degree turn for an increasingly collective-minded bandleader, who is singularly
disdainful of any genre orthodoxy.
The record is a collection of densely packed grooves, arranged by committee. Dank set pieces culminate in album
standout, ‘Undressed In Solitude’, which features the otherworldly r ’n b of guest vocalist, James Baley. Over 11
simmering minutes, the track defies the contemporary fixations of automated music to convincingly combine sensual
and cerebral textures. While it may call to mind an improbable collision between psych-era Stevie Wonder and the
whimsically dark, Fantastic Planet score, it is clear we are operating in a post Wu-Tang paradigm. The blocky beats and
bit-crushed landscapes of the record at large make for tactile productions (courtesy of a collaboration among producers
Steve Chahley, Tony Price and Twig) that can’t be comfortably ascribed to any one particular era of music making. If a
crate of library, tropicalia, prog and electric jazz records were flattened into a single 12” and then fed into a sampler, we
might approximate the process. Instrumental hip hop by reverse osmosis, a musical perspective where Madlib’s jazz
excursions carry as much weight as his sample-laced productions.
Although the group has largely maintained an aura of obscurity, with little online presence to date, their reputation as a
live group is burgeoning. They were selected to tour across Canada to support the iconic Bill Callahan at the end of 2018,
and Badge will make select appearances following the release of their debut album this spring. Fans of progressive,
instrumental music would do well to take note.
May 11, 2019 11:00 pm The Garrison, Saturday May 11th