Album Reviews - Reviews

Lee Bannon – Alternate/Endings

lee bannon

Remember that excited, lose-yourself-in-something-primal feeling you had when music shook you so hard that you laughed but also cried at the same time? Well, let that explosive catharsis elude you no more, for 2014 has kicked off with Lee Bannon’s debut LP, a record fastened upon a foundation of shock, awe and a solid history of open-minded, experimental production.

Having secured his reputation and cut his teeth producing hip hop that’s more avant-garde than balls-to-the-wall, Bannon continues to explore the junglist sensibilities he began to display in 2013 with his latest LP, Alternate/Endings. Bearing in mind that hip hop and drum and bass are more sonic cousins than siblings, the young Californian is ambitious in tightening the proverbial family-ties. Opening track ‘Resorectah’ is a positively savage experience; with lucid breaks and a heavy bubbling synth array it tips its cap to the likes of The Prodigy in their infancy. It’s absolutely steeped in the old-skool but maintains a raw urgency that comes from tight and modern hip hop sentimentality. ‘NW/WB’ pushes this trope further still. It is mangled in all the right places for the jungle enthusiast. Building upon the manic breaks of the previous track, Bannon unleashes timely chord stabs and a throbbing bass, as well as samples that display his mastery of the attack and decay. Moody and driving, it ensures that movement is a must.

Next up is ‘Prime/decent’ and whereas the previous two compositions are rooted firmly in a warehouse in 1992, this track treads the boundary between the old and the new with abandon. There are elements here reminiscent of Squarepusher’s slower, harder moments and the track has a tempo that doesn’t quite break the speedometer – but it doesn’t really need to, considering its refined but glitchy electronica vibe.

As the album progresses, there isn’t much let up from the hard audio style as Bannon makes his transition from the jungle/hip hop mash  to a more controlled and futuristic drum and bass style. Tracks like ‘Bent/Sequence’ ‘216’ and ‘Value 10’ operate on a level similar to Aphex Twin’s experiments with strictly digital sequencing.  There are hard, broken beats and chaotic melodies here that basically act as a continued assault on the senses. This isn’t hugely problematic if that’s your thing, but the sheer ferocity of the album as a whole is a hard pill to swallow if you’re expecting a glimmer of Bannon’s earlier self on the album.  That being said, the quietest moment on the LP, ‘Phoebe Cates,’ offers a welcome respite from the drilling nature.  Subtle, melodic and definitely calmer, it may come as a surprise given the heaviness that surrounds it.

This is a great debut album by a very promising producer, as well as a smart signing by Ninja Tune. Yes, it’s bloody intense, but if you want that rapturous experience it’s definitely worth a listen or several. Aaron Drain

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