Lee Bannon‘s profile has been steadily rising over the past few years, and deservedly so; he is one of most interesting and versatile producers in the game right now. The Sacramento native first started grabbing people’s attention when his ’90s-esque productions began to appear on the mixtapes of Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era crew. Full of dusty drum loops and soul samples Bannon’s beats recalled those of Operation Doomsday-era MF Doom or classic Jay Dee.
Lee Bannon x Chuuwee – “6 Feet Deep Part 1″
Joey Bada$$ – “Hilary Swank” (prod. by Lee Bannon)
2013 saw Bannon branching out stylistically. His self-released one-sided mixtape Place/Crusher is an amalgam of tempos and influences, ranging from trip-hop to electro to footwork.
By the time he hooked up this mix for FACT Magazine, it was clear he was destined to move beyond the pigeon hole of backpack hip-hop. The track list (which pretty much speaks for itself) foreshadowed a move into different territory all together.
Oneohtrix Point Never – Still Life (Excerpt)
Mykki Blanco – The Initiation
DJ Hype – Computerised Cops
Jackson and his Computer Band – Glow
Rude & Deadly – Mash Dem Down (Smokey Jo VIP Mix)
Sampha – Without (Lee Bannon Remix)
Shadez of Brooklyn – Change
Ratking – Piece of Shit
Blu & Madlib – Fo Figa Rings
The Terrorist – The Chopper (Ray Keith Dirty Chopper Mix)
Spinback & Windmill – In Effect
Andy Stott – Up the Box
Burial – Truant
Skanna – This Way
Source Direct – Snake Style
Somewhere around this time he began experimenting with the jungle aesthetic dropping unlicensed breakbeat-driven relicks of people like Kanye and Sampha.
Sampha – “Without” (LB Remix)
Which brings us to Alternate/Endings. Late last year the chameleonic producer was picked by the seemingly eternal Ninja Tune imprint, which licensed his proper full-length debut last month.
Alternate/Endings effortlessly embodies the attitude of classic ’90s drum & bass– the free-wheeling, kitchen sink style of production that characterized the sound of early releases on Goldie‘s Metalheadz label, before the cult of engineering sapped all the fun out of things.
In some sense Bannon is operating in the context of a greater trend– i.e. the vintage drum & bass motif as current vogue/object of plunder for bass music producers (Machinedrum, Paul Woolford, etc.) and nostalgic 20-year-old Londoners (Mumdance, Tessela, etc.).
But Bannon’s hip-hop pedigree, and perhaps his geography as well, seem to have granted him outlier status. He brings a strong indie aesthetic and a raw vintage boom-bap feel to these productions, craftily reconstructing breakbeats, and weaving disparate samples through Bladerunner-esque, dystopic atmospheres. It’s actually a pretty simple formula, but it works so well in this context.
Lee Bannon – “216″ (from Alternate/Endings)
Still some may question the necessity for this kind of thing, and with the mountain of ’90s jungle/drum & bass, it’s a valid question. The defense I would offer (and I’d imagine the guys at Ninja Tune would agree), is that yes the formula is a classic, but there is a vitality here that is difficult to put into words. Bannon’s version of drum & bass feels like an experiment, the sound of a producer who is genuinely taking risks to push his craft forward in new directions, rather than someone cashing in on the latest trend.
You purchase Alternate/Endings at the Ninja Tune store.