The first time I heard “Gotta Be Your Lover,” the first single from Jon Bap‘s forthcoming debut album What Now?, I had a lot of thoughts — still do. The jangling guitar immediately brought to mind Mac DeMarco‘s 2: lively, frenetic and fun. Then came those drums — buzzy, chaotic and sporadic, creating an uncontrollable groove that takes a few listens to finally settle.
What Now? basks in this erratic pulse, fusing funk, free jazz, soul and R&B in a way that’s simultaneously challenging and refreshing. The album serves as a reflection of Jon Bap’s virtuosity, playing every instrument (except drums, which are handled by Mike Mitchell) and singing in a smooth tenor that treads a line between King Krule, Jesse Boykins III and James Blake.
The album requires a thorough listen: starting from anywhere but “Guided Meditation” isn’t advised, because once What Now? gets going the momentum is maintained throughout. Even in the record’s slower and more somber moments (“Ghost in the Wintertime” and “Don’t Run Into The Dark So Quick”), there’s still so much going on. The latter track, which was inspired by Jon Bap’s girlfriend, captures the beauty of being in a relationship with someone and letting them know you’re there.
“I know you’re good on your own / But we’re in this together” croons Jon Bap. It’s a beautiful sentiment complimented by soft guitar strums and background choir vocals, the singer-songwriter reminding his partner that he’s not just her lover but best friend.
Then there’s “Intuition,” which is my favorite from What Now?. Mitchell, who serves as the drummer for jazz legend Stanley Clarke, provides one of the most interesting drum patterns I’ve heard in awhile. The job of a drummer is to keep time, but what makes Mitchell’s contributions to this project so great is that he kind of deconstructs the idea of what a drummer is supposed to do. Plus, hearing the two go off on a free jazz bender halfway through the song is a treat.
What Now? showcases the beauty of collaboration and improvisation, Jon Bap transforming a collection of impromptu jams into something coherent and different. Sure, the path may be hard to follow at times, but it’s a rewarding listen that you’ll find yourself revisiting more than once.