April 4, 2012

Evan Nabavian is considering taking a job in plastics.

A man claiming to be recording himself taking a dump with his iPod screams, “I got video chat on this muthafuckaaa! I got a million games on this muthafuckaaa!” right before the song abruptly switches to an antiquated infomercial about the Internet. The distorted clips and electronic squawks muddy what would have been a pleasantly lazy jazz loop. That’s track 3, “Phone Drone,” on producer Lee Bannon’s new album Fantastic Plastic, which illustrates the claustrophobia of a modern world with hectic beats.

I first heard about the Sacramento producer in 2009 when I started noticing middle-of-the-road rappers like Torae and Termanology rapping over slightly more progressive beats than was their wont. The common denominator was Lee Bannon, an underground producer making his way as a poor man’s Madlib, albeit a promising one. After a few killer EPs with Willie the Kid and Chuuwee, Bannon’s inventive chops caught the ear of Plug Research who invited him to explore his experimental side.

His ambition shows on Fantastic Plastic, where tight lo-fi instrumentals source ballroom waltzes, heavy psych, and who knows what else all in the space of six minutes. Tunes barely last 40 seconds before they break into collages of restless drums, malfunctioning robots, and barely discernible computerized groans of “Search and Destroy.” It’s as harsh as any Madlib Medicine Show release, but with regular reprieves so you don’t go insane. “Grey” and “Space Glide” are calmer loops for the refined beat-head. “PG&E” with Del Tha Funky Homosapien and Sol is uplifting anti-hater rap.

Fantastic Plastic is far from an overstuffed producer compilation. It’s largely an instrumental affair and rappers only appear sparingly, ensuring there’s little filler. The biggest name is Inspectah Deck, who appears once. He and everyone else rap with their chests puffed out in evident appreciation of Bannon’s production. Sometimes, it sounds like he left his TV on while he was recording this album. The frantic pace resembles the clamor of text messages, emails, RSS feeds, instant messages, and social networks, but it comes across more as a reflection than a luddite’s warning. Lee Bannon’s plastic world is vast and beautiful, but erratic.

MP3: Lee Bannon – “All the Beat That Cast”

Lee Bannon – Fantastic Plastics

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