Release Date: Jul 10, 2015
Record label: Ninja Tune
Genre(s): Electronic, Experimental Ambient
After collaborating with the Alchemist, Hieroglyphics and Joey Bada$$, Lee Bannon threw fans for a curve, releasing last year's Alternate/Endings, which showed the Sacramento producer moving from hip-hop beats into British IDM-influenced electronic. On his sophomore LP, Pattern of Excel, Bannon continues his musical restlessness, giving listeners 15 tracks that could best be described as amorphous ambient soundscapes. Similar to the music of Arca or Burial, Bannon melds R&B vocal samples with show-building, loosely textured synth lines, make tracks like "Artificial Stasis" or "kanu" come off as haunted, rust-covered meditations.
Lee Bannon will not be pigeonholed. After making his name as a hip-hop producer with soulful beats for the Pro Era crew, the Sacramento native turned heads in 2013 when he signed to Ninja Tune and released one of the best jungle albums in years. His solo work has pivoted around ambient, jungle, hip-hop and post-rock, with his gothy aesthetics binding it all together.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. It's difficult to restrict producer Lee Bannon to a single, quantifiable metric. First winning coverage as a jobbing beat maker for Joey Bada$$ - Pro-Era, his contributions were engagingly skewed, tailor-made for the rapper's oddball, stylised delivery. Check back through his early discography and you find a wealth of excellent instrumental hip-hop, with silly '80/'90s TV samples and half swampy, half shiny grooves.
Since emerging as an underground hip-hop producer in the late 2000s, Lee Bannon has made a career of confounding expectations. His Ninja Tune debut, Alternate/Endings, found him all but abandoning hip-hop, instead crafting a love letter to the '90s output of jungle labels like Reinforced and Metalheadz. Late 2014 EP Main/Flex continued Bannon's infatuation with jungle, but added post-dubstep/garage elements à la Burial.
There aren’t many ways to surprise an audience anymore. Sometimes bands will cross over into entirely new sonic territory or pair up with an unexpected collaborator, but this has happened so many times, it’s no less shocking than the next release in a discography. Lee Bannon is the kind of artist whose previous associations make his new record a legitimate and pleasant surprise.
Hip-hop is but a distant memory on Pattern of Excel, the latest album—and the latest reinvention—from Lee Bannon, the Sacramento-raised, New York-based producer born Fred Warmsley. Aside from a few incidental scraps, there are no voices here, and there are hardly any beats, either—just rumbling synths, quivering effects, placid electric guitar, and oodles of atmosphere. It's not inconceivable that you might mistake it for some forgotten post-rock obscurity from the mid-'90s.
The latest effort from the very busy Lee Bannon sees him neglect the jungle and drum and bass influences of his first album in favour of more ambient soundscapes. The result is an altogether eclectic collection of tracks that will alienate as many listeners as it thrills. The trouble with more mature ambient tracks like those present on Pattern of Excel is that they go over the head of many a listener.
Amidst a heatwave, I’m drinking a Ball Jar of lemon water with Lee Bannon’s Pattern To Excel as my tunes. My air conditioner — too small for the square feet of my apartment — buzzes, and I’m compelled to put the volume higher. I hear that Bannon is inspired by Aphex Twin: a lofty name to put into a press release. This intrigues me.
Though it’s a significant departure for the producer, Lee Bannon has hinted at the direction he would take with his latest record, Pattern of Excel, for some time. 2013’s Alternate/Endings was his most left-field and mature release, an expansive reimagining of garage beat music that placed focus on the ethereal sounds behind the beat rather than that immediate, visceral force. On Pattern of Excel, Bannon pushes this style to its logical conclusion by slicing off all the overtly conventional fat he typically dabbles with and instead emphasizes the true root of his sonic passions, from moody ambient pieces to abstract sample-based trials to glitchy soundscapes.
Lee Bannon appears to be increasingly obsessed with subverting expectations. The California producer was initially known for crafting classic hip-hop beats for people like Joey Bada$$, then surprised everyone with the moody drum ’n’ bass of his 2014 debut album, Alternate/Endings. Now he’s followed up with this mostly beatless ambient experimental record.