Lee Bannon – Alternate/Endings – (Ninja Tune; 2013)
Alternate/Endings is California-raised and New York-based hip hop producer, Lee Bannon’s, bold debut album. With unbridled energy and meticulous precision, Bannon creates an experimental cross between hip hop and electronic instrumentals. From the opening track “Resorectah,” a steady flow of jungle-like drum and bass can be felt, setting up the rest of the album’s contained-yet-chaotic atmosphere. These percussions are reminiscent of Outkast’s early work, with their intensity and poignant hits at the forefront of almost every track. Bannon also liberally uses a variety of different samples, most notably an excerpt from the film Pi that essentially captures the album’s calculated and erratic nature: “You see the maddening complexity of the endless string of numbers.” Despite the album’s mostly fast-paced tempo, there are moments with subdued, atmospheric qualities. “Bent/Sequence” and “216” dive into more abstract territory with detached, faded vocals and hazy keyboards that give them an astral feel. Once more, the percussive sounds are at the heart of the tracks which could arguably become somewhat repetitive. But despite the recurring heavy jungle-drum hits, Bannon is able to create an atmospheric urgency that creeps under your skin and settles into your core.
Trial Track: “216”
Various Artists – And I’ll Scratch Yours (Real World Records; 2014)
Following the 2010 release of Scratch My Back, Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel’s tribute to some of his favorite current musical acts, the companion piece, And I’ll Scratch Yours finally gets a proper release. The concept is fairly simple: it’s a tribute album featuring reinterpretations of some of Gabriel’s compositions by the artists that were covered in Scratch My Back.
More was expected from the rather impressive list of participants, which includes Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Lou Reed, David Byrne and Paul Simon. Ultimately, the album feels like an uninspired rehashing of the original tracks, without much attempt to create a new arrangement or inject a different perspective or insight into Gabriel’s compositions.
It could be argued that this amateurish tribute was simply meant to expose the undeniable power and exclusivity of Gabriel’s songwriting, just in time for his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Well played, Mr. Gabriel.
Trial Track: “Biko”