Hidden Gem #9: Jon Bap – What Now?

Jon Bap - Who Now?

Hyperspeed jazz drum cut-ups and jolting guitar stabs, meditative sub bass pools and fertile spoken word poetry: these are stained glass panes in the church that is multi-instrumentalist Jon Bap.

What Now?, Bap’s debut album, combs regions of free jazz, funk, hip-hop, gospel, psych rock, drum ’n’ bass, and ambient to form outsider soul music as warm as it is unheard of.

The naturally delirious sound of What Now? began with the drum work of prodigy Mike Mitchell (drummer of Stanley Clarke’s trio). Bap tracked Mitchell’s slinky, spastic drums last year when he passed through Buffalo, Bap’s hometown. Bap sat with the recordings for months listening for nuances within Mitchell’s improvisations before editing the rhythm tracks that became the basis of the oblique pop songs of What Now?.

Lyrically, the album speaks to what it’s like to be an artist in 2016. Bap finds strength in opposition to his process (“It takes a background to have a foreground.”) Yin and yang appear and reappear thematically (called out by name in penultimate track ‘Yin’). ‘Ghost In The Wintertime’ declares that now means now (“I don’t want to waste time / Let’s go”). We all just want to do what we all want to do.

Jon Bap just wants to make music. Beneath choral arrangements, poems of friends in faraway places, field sound collages, and sun-faded surf guitar chords, the heart of What Now? is a bold spiritual interrogation of the present. But the gorgeous instrumental ephemera are ornamental. The question (What Now?) is real.


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