Lee Bannon – 'Alternate/Endings' album review

The New York producer follows through with an intense, wide-ranging second record rooted in jungle



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Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

We’re willing to bet that Lee Bannon wouldn’t be much cop at Jenga. That’s partly because the rhythmical assault of ‘Alternate/Endings’, the frenetic second album from this New York-based experimental beats producer, suggests that it’s creator can’t sit still for two seconds – let alone long enough to gently liberate a Jenga piece – and partly because the kind of musical cross-pollination and progressive ideas on offer here could only come from someone who’s spent endless, obsessive hours absorbing and dissecting all kinds of electronic music, and certainly not mucking about with wooden blocks.

But Jenga’s loss is music’s gain, for this is a mightily impressive, intense debut for Bannon on the Ninja Tune label (his first LP – the ultra-fragmented hip hop of ‘Fantastic Plastic’ – was released on experimental rap label Plug Research in 2011). Bannon may be best-known for producing hot topic hip hopper Joey Bada$$, but the lifeblood of ‘Alternate/Endings’ is a far different beast: jungle, the jittery, rootsy forefather of drum and bass. Using jungle as a starting point, Bannon wastes no time in mashing up chunky breakbeats, spacey D&B, shadowy hip hop, his own spooky field recordings and mangled bass parts – played by The Mars Volta’s former bassist Juan Alderete, fact fans.

As you’ll have guessed, ‘Alternate/Endings’ is not a straightforward listen. The manic jungle rhythms and skewed synth attacks of ‘NW/WB’, for example, growl defiantly in your face – but it’s also a killer slab of barnstorming, forward-thinking production, with a complex, dark character that represents the mood of the whole album.

This is an accomplished and wildly creative record, packing far more wallop than many producers could hope to muster at such an early stage in their career: fans of electronic mavericks like Actress, Machinedrum, Flying Lotus and 2013’s jungle revival hero, Congo Natty, will find much to love here. Just don’t expect Bannon’s Jenga skills to be up to the same standard.

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