Albums: Lee Bannon remembers when drum ‘n’ bass was good

lee bannon

Lee Bannon
Alternate/Endings
(Ninja Tune)
Jan 13, 2014

Bumbaclot! I just felt like typing that after listening to Lee Bannon’s Ninja Tune debut, mostly because all the skittering breaks and moody samples make me think of ragga jungle. Really Alternate/Endings is more like A Guy Called Gerald’s Juicebox singles in their Gothic atmosphere and convoluted but not comically overblown breakbeat science. Harder than latter-day Amen-tweakers like LTJ Bukem, more serious than cut-ups like Squarepusher — but still not so dour that he would resist the urge to call a track “Phoebe Cates,” Bannon is a throwback in the best way.

 

rasg280114

Ras G
Raw Fruit Vol. 2
(Leaving)
Jan 13, 2014

You don’t need me to remind you how much I love Ras G, and Raw Fruit Vol. 2 is such a breath of fresh, er, herb that I don’t even mind that it was released on cassette. Because, you know, formats that needed to come back. Who the fuck was sitting around reminiscing about having to rewind things? Anyways, RF2 features lots of heavy smokers-delight breaks and movie samples (Denis Leary in Judgment Night is a major highlight — You’re in MY world now, Emilio Estevez!) along with some dynamite jazzy bits. My favourite aspect remains how samples from other songs he’s released show up again here, part of Ras’ personal cosmology of sampledelia that conjures up feelings of continuity, or at least, the sense that he may be too blunted on a regular basis to remember which samples he’s already used. It makes me smile either way. Don’t sleep.

warpaint

Warpaint
Warpaint
(Rough Trade)
Jan 18, 2014

It’s sad when a group succumbs to an obvious and entirely preventable illness, like heroin addiction, ska-punk or the affliction I’ve dubbed “We don’t need your fascist 4/4 time.” Warpaint’s self-titled album has a handful of songs that are as strong as the bulk of their debut, and it’s no coincidence that they’re the ones that are tightly focused (the unspeakably hypnotic “Biggy,” the PiL-meets-ESG throb of “Disco Very”) as opposed to the ones where melodies spill lazily over barlines (“Keep It Healthy”) and shifts into weird, unrelated keys come out of nowhere (“Love Is To Die”). It seems to be the byproduct of listening to too much weedy British folk music, or more likely, Amnesiac-era Radiohead. But where they can get away with bizarro time signatures and high drama, Warpaint’s songs mostly don’t have the extremely compelling melodic/lyrical guts of a “Paranoid Android” or a “Pyramid Song”, so their wanky arrangements and tortured crooning come off as, well, just that. I certainly wouldn’t write off a group with an instant-classic dirge like “Go In” in them, but I hope they can shake whatever bug afflicts a few too many of this album’s tracks. Always practice safe influence-intercourse, kids.

actress

Actress
Ghettoville
(Werkdiscs/Ninja Tune)
Jan 27, 2014

The trends in urban music production over the last year summed up in one phrase: ‘Anita Baker Screwed & Chopped’. Everything sounds like it’s a tenth generation dub of a tape that had been retrieved from inside a club urinal. As a listening experience, Actress’ follow-up to R.I.P., and last under the name, is about as washed-out and grey as the album cover, but consuming Ghettoville in chunks makes it a lot more digestible. I don’t know why anyone would dirty up a track like “Rims” when the source material isn’t that sonically engaging in the first place – a bright lead voice ramps up and down in pitch with industrial-grade soul-crushing repetition while a cymbal clangs incessantly in the background.

I thought the dreary one-two punch of “Rims” and “Contagious” might drive me off in search of a civil defense bunker to hide in. But “Gaze” has a bit more texture and colour, with a wispy synth smeared across the track and a Chicago house-style beat that summons the atmosphere of a warehouse party where the speakers are half blown but everyone’s too out of their gourd to notice. “Skyline” and “Frontline” are similarly driving, and even the pummeling hi-hats of “Birdcage” are offset by some chilly electro synth vibes that balance things out nicely. Recommended for when you’re stuck somewhere with a boom box whose speakers will not reproduce treble frequencies of any kind. Could potentially sound great on a supermarket PA. Anyone want to test that theory?

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