Leland Whitty

(Innovative Leisure)


On the cover of the solo debut album from Leland Whitty, in blurred green, a young boy cuts across a wide path running parallel to a river, ignoring the overgrown trees declaring some guard of honour. It’s the kind of image you could only capture momentarily: a calm landscape troubled by another storyline for all of a second. The BADBADNOTGOOD collaborator-turned-member has built up a remarkable discography over the years outside the raucous Toronto quartet, working with Kendrick Lamar, MF DOOM, Earl Sweatshirt and Kaytranada among others, but Anyhow is noteworthy for its unassuming but assured tranquillity. Even when its flourishes appear, cutting across the record’s rhythm section like the aforementioned boy, you don’t need to focus on them to enjoy the view.

From the surprisingly meditative opening notes of ‘Svalbard’ that twist like a feather on the breeze to the gentle humming chorus up next, Whitty’s first solo steps charter a lot of ambient ground for its fleeting, half hour runtime. Though keys tumble into a freefalling jazz in ‘Glass Moon’ – resembling the rotational interludes of St. Vincent’s ‘Strangers’ more than his instrumental contemporaries – Whitty’s saxophone squalls shatter the ambience like sunshine cutting through a heavy cloud rather than something unwelcome. Likewise, the swirling woodwind of ‘Windows’ and ‘Silver Rain’ – boosted by the playing of BADBAD bandmates Alex Sowinski and Chester Hansen – make any one-dimensional criticisms of Anyhow end as soon as they begin. It’s an album routinely in the image of the easy listening jazz fusion made vogue by Kokoroko and friends, sure, but when flashes of guitar hit the trad bebop keys in ‘Awake’ and the crunching drums pierce the skin of ‘In Circles’, there’s no shortage of space to explore.