Given that we can now create our own playlists with little more than a few clicks of a mouse, it’s not unreasonable to question the point of releasing albums by various artists. However, trying to breathe life back into the idea of the compilation while simultaneously giving recommendation algorithms the middle finger is the latest instalment in the long-running ‘Late Night Tales’ series. This time round, it features tracks hand-picked by the phenomenally talented and disgustingly young Canadian post-jazz quartet.
Unsurprisingly, their taste is impeccable; Latin rhythms sit alongside the slinky soul of Delegation, pared-down disco rubs shoulders with the Marxist-flavoured krautrocking bleeps and bloops of Stereolab, and ‘Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)’ from Pet Sounds cosies up next to the glacial R&B of BadBadNotGood acolyte Charlotte Day Wilson. But to what end? Whichever streaming service you favour has a raft of themed playlists to suit every time and emotion, so why bother with such a collection?
The answer lies in the story this album tells over time. ‘Late night’ might be a nebulous concept when it comes to matching mood and music, but BBNG clearly understand this. The compilation ramps up slowly before bringing the party, but never in a way that’s too abrasive or intrusive. The front half features songs which, while they’ll never be dropped by David Guetta mid-set, can lift the mood and get your feet moving.
The appearance of Thundercat halfway through is the cue to turn down the tempo and we get a window into some more reflective moments. As well as the aforementioned Beach Boys track, we get Donnie and Joe Emerson’s peerless ‘Baby’, plus BBNG themselves, covering Andy Shauf’s ‘To You’.
As all ‘Late Night Tales’ collections traditionally do, the set is closed with a spoken word piece. In this instance, it’s post-punk firebrand Lydia Lunch who, with a voice that suggests she gargles with gravel before breakfast every morning and has been on 20 Benson & Hedges a day since her early teens, growls her way through a piece called ‘You, Me and Jim Beam’. It’s a captivating – if slightly unsettling – way to finish a stellar record.
With this expertly curated and brilliantly sequenced collection, BadBadNotGood have demonstrated that there’s still life in the compilation, and have shown the benefit of getting professionals on board to create them. However your night turns out, BBNG have the soundtrack.
Words: Joe Rivers
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