Badge Epoch

Scroll

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Scroll Review

by Paul Simpson

Best known for making lo-fi psych-pop as Slim Twig and frequently collaborating with U.S. Girls, Max Turnbull moved beyond pop forms and began exploring the outer limits with his groups the Cosmic Range and Badge Époque Ensemble, which channeled spiritual jazz, Afro-beat, and deep funk, with Badge Époque landing a little closer to psychedelic soul on a few occasions. All this time, Turnbull has concurrently been developing other ideas, and his 2021 double LP Scroll, released under the distinct project Badge Epoch, is a sprawling collage that takes in additional influences such as library music, hip-hop, and ambient techno. Members of both ensembles contribute, as well as several additional musicians, and the whole project is meant to evoke several specific eras of music, but sequenced out of chronological order, so it's not an accurate linear timeline. The four vinyl sides are their own distinct song cycles, following their own logic. The album starts in grand fashion with the 12-minute epic "Galactic Whip," which builds up cinematic suspense for several minutes before launching into a nasty, synth-heavy funk groove. "Personality" is a time-lapse through several eras of electronic music, starting out with burbling analog synthesizers recalling the genre's earliest experiments, then segueing into a ticking Casio beat and transforming into a darkwave synth pop instrumental. "Consensus Reality" (with Badge Époque Ensemble) has Krautrock-like rhythms that occasionally fracture and become polyrhythmic, as well as joyous flutes, congas, and a few synth outbursts. "Fundamentalism" is easily one of the more successful library funk grooves here, although it sort of trails off near the end, after the sax comes in. "Egyptian Licorice" is an easygoing exotica excursion spiked with Michael Rother-style guitars. While a few songs such as that one stretch out for a while, there's more compact selections like the dark synth-funk of "Consciousness Returned" (which nevertheless has a hopeful guitar melody tucked away inside) and the crunchy fuzz guitar attack of "Fruit Cocktail in Heavy Syrup." The album is filled with consciousness-expanding interludes and curious experiments that might seem to bloat the track listing, but at the same time it wouldn't make sense for this journey to just focus on the more immediate bits. Both indulgent and inspired, Scroll is a zigzagging voyage through several states of awareness, constantly leaving the listener guessing, and hitting several high points.

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