Over the past few years, Max Turnbull’s Badge Époque Ensemble has quietly become one of the best nexuses of psych, funk, jazz, and soul in the Northern Hemisphere. With a humid aura, the band lays their hooks down into dry ice and takes the temperature of the room down a few degrees. The unit has raised Turnbull’s profile, but he’s been working among Toronto’s most open minds for a while now, mining pop as Slim Twig and helping to helm Meg Remy’s backing band in U.S. Girls. All the while, in all these facets there’s been another persona brewing, one that exists concurrent to the ensemble, but attacks the impulses from an entirely different mindset.
Still dipped in the same psych-funk solution, Badge Epoch pairs rhythm and pulse with a more outre vision, locking onto soundtrack synth, Dilla sketches, and instrumental elctro-prog visions that might have found a home between Editions Mego and Stones Throw. For eight years Turnbull has been amassing the pieces of this, but rather than clutch control of his collection of mind crunch and painstakingly assemble them into their own disorder, he set them free and handed the tapes over to Toronto sound artist Andrew Zukerman, aka Fleshtone Aura.
In Zukerman’s hands the pieces are assembled into four sides of vinyl, each one an exercise in bend and scrape, dance and destruction. The original pieces pull in a heavy assortment of his Toronto contemporaries, netting inclusions from The Cosmic Range, the full Époque Ensemble, and a quartet of producers that have popped up on Ensemble-Adjacent material over the past few years. The resulting record is a sonic tapestry of tension and playfulness. There’s a feeling of an unseen needle stitching the disparate panels — a feeling of recreating the psych overload of German Progressives like The Cosmic Jokers with the other eye trained on Entroducing. Turnbull’s opus is a lot to absorb in one sitting, but letting it wash over you a few times, the record becomes not about songs but moments, through lines, counterpoint, and interchange. Its more of a microcosm than an album, but its fascinating to dive in every time.
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