There’s a great deal of pressure on today’s emerging producers to be both hip-hop beatmakers and solo electronic artists, a trend that brings to mind the old Mitch Hedberg line: “All right, you’re a cook—can you farm?” While it’s made for some fascinating music in the last few years (HudMo’s exploits with the G.O.O.D. Music crew, AraabMuzik’s Electronic Dream), it can be a tricky course for up-and-comers to navigate. If you’ve heard Lee Bannon’s name at all, it was almost certainly in the context of his work on Joey Bada$$’s mixtape, Summer Knights, and you might expect his full-length debut to be in the vein of recent instrumental releases from AraabMuzik and Clams Casino—more or less a glorified beat tape.
But Alternate/Endings could hardly be a bigger departure from Bannon’s breezy soul- and jazz-inspired Pro Era ventures. Instead, it’s a headfirst dive into dance music’s deep end, putting the Sacramento native at the center of the ongoing movement to breathe new life into hard-nosed jungle. From newcomers like Tessela to veterans like Four Tet and Paul Woolford, plenty of contemporary producers have championed the genre’s revival, but few have embraced it as fully as Bannon does here, splicing and dicing its signature frenetic breakbeats and blasting them through clouds of ambient drones and atomized vocals of a more recent vintage.
Though nearly all of Alternate/Endings adheres to that basic formula, Bannon manages to work in a surprising amount of variety around the edges. “Resorectah” opens the album with a maniacal 175-bpm percussive assault, but the relatively restrained “Prime/Decent” plays like a hollowed-out Prodigy track, and the first half of “Phoebe Cates” could almost pass for trip-hop. “Value 10” veers awfully close to Chicago footwork, while traces of James Blake’s post-dubstep haunt lead single “216.” “Have like 47 gigs of ideas in my brain right now,” Bannon tweeted in October, and he reportedly culled these 12 tracks from “around 80” of his favorites. Such relentless creative energy impels every beat of the album, and it can be tough to keep up. But Alternate/Endings succeeds in leaving you both exhausted and anxious for more.