Lee Bannon – ‘Alternate / Endings’ 2LP [Ninja Tune]

Been a while since we’ve been hyped over an amen-break based full length, and then comes this Lee Bannon on Ninja Tune, which has got us hooked like crack. Best known to date as a hip-hop producer, delivering beats to rappers such as Joey Bada$$, Bannon has stepped up a notch to produce this solo outing, more than a stones throw away from his leftfield hip-hop outings.

The vibe here is taking rave music back in to the studio, and cleaning it up in preparation of sending it back out in to the record underground. There’s something masterful about a producer who can do it; Lone, Four Tet and Zomby among the names who have blitzed it best in recent memory. It’s all about capturing a vibe that you once knew or wanted to know, and then adding your own contribution to it.

Somehow, despite his Northern Californian home base and history as a beat maker, Bannon has managed to tap in to the closely guarded UK drum n bass ecosystem, taking definite instrumental influences from early Metalheadz releases and nights.

The end product here is tactical clean production, but still reminiscent of dirty raves and morning after shuffles from the venue to the train. There’s no filler, just eleven tracks of sample heavy drum n bass, jump-up rave tracks and on point cinematic breaks. Alternate / Endings is equally dark as it is uplifting, masterfully offered as a debut on Ninja Tune, as well as full body of work that the d&b community would be stupid to ignore.

There’s been a lot of rubbish written lately about the return of the junglist and drum n bass music, and equally enough written about how it never went away. Doesn’t really matter in my opinion, as the new music that we’re listening to is making the old classics surface once again, but to weigh in on the debate it seems to be more of an attitude shift then a genre coming back. House heads are having equal discussion about warehouse vibes coming through on major productions and dubstep cats are now returning to sound system culture. This all points to a slow reclamation of rave or play-out attitude for genres that bring people together, looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Who knows where Lee Bannon will go next, maybe continuing to explore this territory culminating in a ninety minute drum n bass opera or perhaps going nomadic through genres. Whether he moves to disco, footwork, back to rap instrumentals or follows Juan from Mars Volta (who features on this album) down a psyche rock rabbit-hole, he’s definitely put himself on the map with this LP.

Check out of the stand out tracks on the album below, press release underneath that. Big ups Lee Bannon as well as Ninja Tune, who are looking to have a pretty stunning 2014 as a label if all the release rumours come true.

via Ninja Tune
Lee Bannon’s debut album, Alternate/Endings, is a riotous act of imagination. The young, Sacramento raised and NYC resident producer is the sort of character almost overwhelmed by inspiration, finding his drive via film and field recordings as much as in music. This lends his own work a sense of excitement and urgency that’s as thrilling as it is rare.

Having produced white-hot NYC rapper Joey Bada$$ – a moment he describes as pivotal – Bannon has spent the last six months working on his debut LP. The experience was a new one on all levels. Previously he’d made his music very quickly, and fleshing out a body of work over a length of time was a grander endeavour. Those months paid off in spades, and Alternate/Endings delivers on all the promise this young prodigy has shored up.

The first surprise is that Bannon has moved away from hip-hop, and into drum n’ bass and jungle. Inspired by both his youth in Sacramento – where d’n’b was huge – and the backdrop of 2013’s jungle renaissance, via albums by Machinedrum and Congo Natty, Bannon too, has reinvigorated the form. This is drum n’ bass in its most contemporary permutation; a furnace-hot future-blast of immersive atmospherics, deep bass and funk-ridden drums.

Bannon references the work of Paul Thomas Anderson, and in particular There Will Be Blood, as inspiration in the making of the album. It makes sense; the album is drenched in changing, but equally powerful, often menacing moods. Requiem for a Dream was another touchstone, which goes some way to framing Bannon’s haunting, beautiful sense of melody.

Leftfield shaman Juan from Mars Volta played bass parts that ended up forming the basis for every song on the record, whilst friend and collaborator Black Atlass sings on “Phoebe Crates” and plays Reznor-esque piano on lead single “216.” The field recordings that Bannon makes compulsively are used throughout, adding texture and depth to the record as a whole.

Alternate/Endings is perhaps misleadingly titled. This is just the start.