The Bad Plus

The Bad Plus

“The Bad Plus isn’t about instruments; it’s about the music,” bassist Reid Anderson tells Apple Music. “The band is whatever we say it is, and this record is a testament to that fact.” Twenty-one years on from their explosive piano trio debut, traversing everything from free jazz to punk, the Minneapolis-formed combo keeps evolving. Following the departure of pianist Orrin Evans in 2021, founding members Anderson and drummer Dave King faced a difficult decision: find a new formation or call it quits. Thankfully, the pair called up powerhouse instrumentalists Chris Speed on tenor sax and Ben Monder on guitar to transform The Bad Plus into a quartet. Their resulting 15th studio record is both a continuation of their angular and unpredictable sound, as well as the start of a new project. From the meditative opening of “Motivations II” to the psychedelic distortions of “Not Even Close To Far Off” and the avant-garde improvisations of “Sick Fire,” The Bad Plus may be in a new era, but they still deliver on the same arresting compositions. “It’s a chance for us to give our music a new context—a rebirth of sorts,” Anderson says. Read on for his in-depth thoughts on the album, track by track. “Motivations II” “Pre-pandemic, each year or so, we’d plan on making a new record, and then myself and Dave would get to work writing the tunes. For this album, we had more writing time because of the lockdowns, and it ended up being a great opportunity to work out ways of writing more efficiently. ‘Motivations II’ is a great example of that more minimal and efficient style, trying to get a lot out of a small amount of music. It felt like the perfect overture and introduction for the record because it eases you into the rest of the tracks.” “Sun Wall” “Dave and I have two distinct styles of writing. He has more of a driving explosiveness in his compositions, and his forms are often quirky and unconventional. ‘Sun Wall’ is a great representation of how our strengths as writers lie in our contrasts. The track features Ben Monder on guitar, and he plays an extraordinary, distorted solo, which is rough around the edges. That sound encapsulates how we’re not trying to make a pristine product—we want friction and tension, as well as ambience.” “Not Even Close To Far Off” “We always want to embrace the rock music that we grew up with and that shaped us into wanting to be musicians. We are children of the 1980s, listening to New Wave and driving eighth-note music like Depeche Mode or The Police or Peter Gabriel. This track embraces the power of that, rather than feeling like we have to pay homage to jazz instead. It is also a great vehicle for our saxophonist, Chris Speed, who plays an amazing solo here.” “You Won’t See Me Before I Come Back” “This is one of my compositions, and it takes the listener on a journey through a more epic soundscape before reaching a sense of an arrival at the end. A lot of what we do in our music is to embrace different stylistic touchstones, and ‘You Won’t See Me Before I Come Back’ is unabashedly melodic, with a pop sensibility to its arc.” “Sick Fire” “Another important ingredient in our music is the avant-garde. ‘Sick Fire’ is free improvisation, and it is a testament to the responsibility of playing free. When you have no structure going into a song, you have a real duty to listen and shape the music to make it into a song. Pop and the avant-garde are the two poles for us, and there is no hierarchy there—they are equally important.” “Stygian Pools” “Titles are an important jumping-off point for the listener’s imagination, and they help make each song into its own world. There’s something dark about this track and that is where the title originated from. We usually know what the instrumentation for the band is going to be before writing a record, but this time, some of the music was conceived for the original trio and had to be adapted. ‘Stygian Pools’ is one such composition that popped into my head when I was walking around London one day. I sang it into my phone and then took it to the new band to be worked on.” “In The Bright Future” “I wanted to write a song for this record that was just based on a single bass ostinato being played throughout the whole composition. Specific basslines are quite unusual in jazz, but they can be a really effective tool. ‘In The Bright Future’ was a phrase that I kept saying, sometimes ironically, during the pandemic. It’s cynical, since you’re never actually ‘in’ the future, but there is a hopefulness to the music, and I think it carries a message of optimism.” "The Dandy” “Dave conceived this track as the closing kiss goodbye to the record. It has a certain meditative arc to it that feels like a way of sailing off gently into the night and undulating as we fade out. I’m not sure who the character of The Dandy is though—perhaps it’s an homage to the dandy in all of us!”

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