Listening to Jonathan Badger isn’t entirely easy. You have to get used to quick stops and starts, sounds that come running in to interrupt other sounds, complex signatures, and a near-complete lack of discernible through-line. And it can be fascinating. Verse gives us 10 tracks from a composer who’s clearly not afraid to mix things up, whether by individual tracks or within them. Straightforward post-rock moments arise, as on “St Lucy’s Day” or the initially calm and quiet “Limbec,” but Badger is just lining them up to get mauled into new shapes. “Limbec” makes a very smooth shift from a folk-influenced indie feel to something that suddenly has thick calls of brass and sparkly arpeggios that run in and out. Distorted guitar comes in bursts, crashing sounds drop in the background, and yet it retains an odd coherence. Nothing takes you out of the listening experience, odd as the sounds might be, but just adds another layer of interest. “Nimbus” opens with a dream-pop feel, with vocals from the Sisters Wick over acoustic guitar, breaks out into something more at home on quite trippy prog with fast guitar runs and distortion, and settles back into an actual song with an orchestral overtone. Then it’s gone, snapped off at a perfect point. Badger’s inventive guitar work is on display throughout the album, and is showcased on “Dotter.” This high-energy track boasts meaty bass and fiery runs packed into loops that take on weight as they go forward. “Ebarmen” plays with post-rock, taking something fairly straightforward, rhythmic and melodic, and then throwing in some off notes to tug at your ear and mess with your musical ideals. Throughout, though, it never quite loses its hook and you stay with it as much for its subtle groove as to see where it goes next. Verse is intriguing work for a generation deprived of their attention spans and fed on sound bites. It packs big amounts of intellectual and emotional data into moments that flash past on the retina of your mind’s eye and leave their branded impression. You remember the sudden, interruptive segments as much for how they didn’t seem to fit but did as for how they felt like they fit but didn’t. It may take a couple of listens to get used to Badger’s style and ideas, but the reward is worth the challenge. There’s some very cool stuff going on in here if you’re uo to it.
Available from Cuneiform.