Music Review: Lee Bannon – Alternate/Endings
Lee Bannon is most recently known for his soulful production work with emerging rapstar Joey Bada$$, however Bannon’s latest album Alternate/Endings has made it almost impossible to label the artist to one specific genre. This album sees Lee Bannon take a shot at the forgotten Jungle genre; a sound he became familiar with growing up in Sacramento. Whilst this latest project shares a similar production style to Bannon’s hiphop sounds, make no mistake that this is the furthest thing from a hiphop record; being an authentic, full fledged Jungle album. Taking inspiration from movie director Paul Thomas Anderson, most notably his film ‘There Will Be Blood’, Bannon manages to create an ever changing soundtrack rather than a track list of single songs; something we’ve seen him do in the past on his instrumental mixtape Gnarlon Bando’s Midnight Noir, where he took inspiration from the movie ‘Drive’ and created a soundtrack to his own imaginary movie.
The opening track, Resorectah, immediately lets the listener know what they’re in for, with a classic drum loop pacing the song and gloomy pads setting a dark tone with the vocal sample ‘resurrector’ changing pitch and speed. The song is well sequenced, changing in intensity and having moments of brightness leading into loud, scattered kicks and snares before mellowing. NW/WB continues with the same vocal sample but features an aggressive pitch shifting synth and a lot more melodic variants, whilst the drums remain soaked in a phaser effect that stay consistent throughout the record and can become monotonous. The drums on Prime/Decent introduce an infectious body wobbling groove that never stands still, occasionally featuring what appears to be live drum rolls to add to the unpredictability of the track. This is paired with a reverb heavy vocal sample that sounds as if it could have been lifted straight from an RnB song, which floats over the top whilst a deep bassline moans underneath, struggling to breakout. Shoot Out The Stars And Win continues with the same formula as the previous song which makes for a pleasant listen but struggles to stand out on the album.
It really is not until the fifth song, Bent/Sequence, that we see Bannon break out of his shell and provide his uniqueness to the project with a deep and atmospheric sample based track. It’s hard to place your finger on what makes this song so impactful as no one single element stands out, but rather it is the combination of the punchy drums, long held pad chords, single note synth stabs and a stretched female vocal sample that creates this stand out moment. Phoebe Cates picks up where Bent/Sequence left off, with some interesting use of effects on the percussion and vocal sample. By slowing down and stretching the sample, Bannon embraces the grainless sound it generates to work to his advantage; again demonstrating Bannon’s unique approach to music. The lead single 216 is by far the most ambitious song on the album, featuring several chaotic beat changes book ended by a gothic piano that plays into the movie soundtrack theme. The energy picks back up on Perfect/Division, yet fails to make any impact through its loud, sporadic sounds and lacks the definition the song needs. Value 10 calms the album down by getting rid of the clutter that has been featured on previous tracks and offers a smooth and simple approach, putting emphasis on the glossy percussion. This blissful moment is short lived as Cold/Melt brings back the fast paced, choppy style; this time with an underlying airiness that can become therapeutic. Ready/Available is nine minutes long and divided into two parts, with the first six minutes delivering a constant repeat of an annoying melody with a lightweight drum loop in the background. The remaining three minutes offer a filtered piano riff surrounded in effects, whilst kicks and snares randomly sound off, providing little rhythm until eventually making sense of its self and coming to a polished finish. The final track, Eternal/Attack, also fails to impress with long, ominous tones that fail to bring anything new to the table; making for a disappointing end to the album.
Alternate/Endings does not reinvent the wheel that is Jungle but rather injects some life into it. It also showcases Lee Bannon as a multi-genre artist with a future in movie scores, shown clearly from the type of soundscapes he is able to create. The constant beat changes and variants ensure that there is rarely a dull moment, however the album becomes somewhat of a blur towards the end due to songs sharing the same pace and similar in your face style. More songs like Value 10 could have helped balanced the album out, giving some respite from the chaos. Amongst this chaos however, there are some gems that will undoubtedly make you rewind and replay them. Similarly to watching an athlete at the top of their game, there are moments that will leave you questioning ‘how does he do that?’, such as on Bent/Sequence. These moments of pure innovation are few are far between and what you’re left with in the void between these moments is a solid, strong Jungle album.
What do you make of this album? Do you think Lee Bannon is better suited for hiphop or do you not mind him stepping out and creating a project like this? Let us know how you feel and leave a comment below.