Do you ever find it extremely hard to focus? Of course you do! Are you alive right now? It’s damn hard to focus on anything for more than two seconds without that dog-brained impulse in your head saying, ‘hey, I wonder what’s happening over here, or over here or on this website, hmmm what about that website.” The attention economy affects each and every one of us no matter your persuasion or profession. I’m interested in how this new reality impacts the decisions artists make in particular. I think it partially explains why a few weeks ago, Lil Nas X shot stardom in about the same amount of time it takes to listen to his chart topping single “Old Town Road”. It is the shortest song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart since Herman’s Hermits topped the chart with their song “I’m Henry VIII, I Am,” in 1965.
I think it also explains “Undressed In Solitude”, a song that, if it were reach the top of the charts, it would be the longest song to ever make it there, unseating “American Pie”. Hey, now that we have two charts, anything is possible, right? Maximilian ‘Twig’ Turnbull and his Badge Époque Ensemble, made up of various members from various Toronto-based bands, makes music that at its core should be unfocused. Some might describe Badge’s sound as “jammy” or “long”, while others may hear groove oriented wah wah odysseys — instrumentals that push you and pull you, that chip away at the walls we put up, that urge your primal soul to dance like no one could film you for their social feeds. To each their own.
On “Undressed in Solitude”, Turnbull achieves a perfect synthesis between his other notable projects: the pop-rock punch of Darlene Shrugg, the freedom and movement of The Cosmic Range and the cutting, groovy, revolutionary soul of U.S. Girls. This may all sound like a mess, but it is far from that; instead, it’s ten minutes of pure focus, intent, and execution. Grounded in its first suite by a James Baley vocal feature and lifted by gorgeous flute flourishes, “Undressed in Solitude” rocks you like a baby in a cradle. By the climax of its second movement, that baby is levitating, possessed, and speaking in tongues (and dancing, of course). Eleven minutes goes by in an instant. Perhaps Turnbull has reached the height of his creativity and sonic powers. Or maybe he knows, consciously or not, that if he wants people to dive into his musical world and stay there, he cannot make music that rests on its laurels or strays from the path. And doing that without sacrificing vision (one that includes very long, largely improvised songs) as he does here with his new ensemble is an considerable feat.
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