Release Date: Dec 9, 2013
Record label: Ninja Tune
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Jungle/Drum'n'Bass
As a producer for Joey Bada$$ and the Pro Era crew, Lee Bannon consistently delivers beats that are linear yet still leave a notable mark, such as on Super Helpful's sublime The Help EP. In stark contrast to this lies the ominous Caligula Theme Music 2.7.5 and his oddball debut LP, Fantastic Plastic, both of which remained relatively under the radar, but lit enough of a fire to attract the attention of Ninja Tune. Which brings us to Bannon's latest overhaul, Alternate / Endings, a huge and lumbering behemoth thrown together from the rusty scraps of jungle and chewed up hip-hop.
With a junglist resurgence in full swing, Lee Bannon's timing couldn't be better. Until now, the New York-based artist was known for his hip-hop productions and his work with Joey Bada$$. On his first record for Ninja Tune, though, he goes full-bore jungle. This move might seem out of leftfield were it not for Bannon's childhood stint in Sacramento, a city where the spirit of the jungle (and its child drum & bass) has long burned strong.
There's a great deal of pressure on today's emerging producers to be both hip-hop beatmakers and solo electronic artists, a trend that brings to mind the old Mitch Hedberg line: “All right, you're a cook—can you farm?” While it's made for some fascinating music in the last few years (HudMo's exploits with the G.O.O.D. Music crew, AraabMuzik's Electronic Dream), it can be a tricky course for up-and-comers to navigate. If you've heard Lee Bannon's name at all, it was almost certainly in the context of his work on Joey Bada$$'s mixtape, Summer Knights, and you might expect his full-length debut to be in the vein of recent instrumental releases from AraabMuzik and Clams Casino—more or less a glorified beat tape.
Alternate/Endings is Lee Bannon's second album, but it represents something like the fifth or sixth iteration of Lee Bannon. He broke through years ago as one of the most promising producers associated with Joey Bada$$'s Pro Era crew, offering potent but catholic updates of beats forged by the likes of RZA and DJ Premier. Since then he has gotten weirder in familiar ways: offering a self-released EP of TriAngle-style moan-bap and, on his 2012 debut album Fantastic Plastic, stoned West Coast abstractions.
If you pick up Lee Bannon's debut full-length based on his production work for NYC rap sensation Joey Bada$$, you'll be surprised to find that instead of throwback indie hip-hop beats, he focuses on another dominant soundtrack of his youth: classic jungle breaks and drum 'n' bass. Inspired partly by the success of Machinedrum's Vapor City album last year, Alternate/Endings is a dark and sometimes creepy exploration of dissonant synths, spooky atmospheres, intimidating sub-bass and rattling snares. The breakbeats Bannon samples and the ways he's chopped them definitely give the proceedings a retro feel (assuming you were listening to these sounds in the 90s), but since he's not just making d 'n' b for DJs to play at raves, he's able to explore a larger variety of tempos and variations.
And so the drum ‘n’ bass revival continues apace, with producers from the worlds of techno, grime and hip-hop unable to resist its hardcore lure. Latest is Lee Bannon, known to most as Joey Bada$$’s producer. Deviating from his hip-hop background for his debut LP Alternate/Endings, Bannon has produced one of the most intriguing records of the 160bpm resurgence yet.
Alternate/Endings, the debut album from Sacramento, CA producer Lee Bannon does not mess around in letting you know what’s in store for the next sixty-one minutes. A voice bellows the title of opening track “Resorectah” before a hail of drum & bass beats batter in on top of the sampled voice, and that’s how the track continues for the next four minutes, save for a short ambient passage around halfway through that gives you time to pick yourself up off the floor. Subtle, it is not.
Sun Kil Moon, Benji (Stream) Heartbreaking and raw, Benji is Sun Kil Moon’s best album to date, and indisputably cements Mark Kozelek’s reputation as one of the finest storytellers in contemporary indie music. Kozelek focuses each song around a central character or theme—usually friends or family from Ohio who have died or in some way encountered death—and combines tightly woven narratives with his own captivating and idiosyncratic free association to explore the way in which humans process other people’s tragedies through their own experiences. The sparse musical arrangements and haunting production only serve to heighten the album’s intimacy and ultimately render it a masterpiece of reflection and introspection, destined to be played on repeat in scores of late-night, tired, and lonely rooms.