26 April, 2012@10:31 am
Lee Bannon released the seven track, eleven minute Fantastic Plastic EP in September of last year on Plug Research, and talk about a teaser! For fans, it was only right he came back this February with a full length album of the same title. At first listen, it’s hard to believe Bannon hails from The Golden State’s capital. The Fantastic Plastic LP is a conduit to space exploration, hinting he’s a visitor from light years away.
Bannon packed an array of sounds into Fantastic Plastic’s first release, ranging from instrumental loops to effects, to sound bytes about 8 track cartridges and what could translate as an autobot frequency. The lofty vision is actualized in record time with a track featuring the Wu’s Rebel INS. The LP more than doubles the track listing and triples the running time, but don’t expect an explanation of the original aural gallimaufry. Instead, expect more of the same. Still, for an album so fleeting, the content is palpable.
Futuristic is an understatement as Yu raps “astronauts rock this while they’re pushing through the clouds” on the opening track. Remaining from the EP are the virtually untouched “Peace,” “Phone Drone,” “Grey,” and “Space Glide.” We miss some of the more melodically driven tracks like “Master” and “Thumbs” but clearly Bannon had an underlying theme to stick with. Also missing was what might have been the EP’s universal draw, “Something Higher” featuring Inspektah Deck. But the LP makes up for it with ample features.
Chuck Inglish offers smooth storytelling over the sinister “Search & Destroy,” before a robotic Allegro sets in, ending with distorted keyboard. Del the Funky Homosapien makes his first of two appearances with Sol, contributing to the head-nod inspiring “PG&E” laid over a 60’s psychedelic rock-charged sound we hear again throughout the record. “In Color” featuring Poor begins laid back but its cacophonous ending will jolt you out of the zone of that beginning groove.
There are a few instrumentals like “Lord Gnarlon” a somber cut featuring vocal clips of Sacramento street performer Down Town James Brown. The succinct “Plastic Man;” pulling from English rock band The Kinks’ 1969 song of the same name, showcases funky guitar riffs and classically jazzy piano, all overlaid with those darn robots again.
Del the Funky Homosapien shines on “The Things,” and “The Noise in Color” picks up right where it leaves off rhythmically, hinting at a representation of the visual through sound .
Bonus track “The News” featuring Stones Throw family members MED and Oh No, along with Roc C ends the album traditionally with beats and rhymes. We can’t help but feel, however, that after deciphering the project’s messaging it’s a bone thrown to those who didn’t quite catch on.
Overall, Bannon scores with eclecticism reminiscent of Oxnard Green, adding unique electronic sensibilities. There are traditional moments of clarity within Fantastic Plastic but this isn’t an album you skip around on. Listening in succession is recommended to comprehend his artistic commentary on what technology has become versus what we predicted of it in the past. Many if not all of the songs begin one way and end the polar opposite, trading the past for the future between sample driven production and mechanized sound effects.
Bannon’s courage to experiment beyond the norm and reach higher than the depths of the “hell they call stagnant” as Yu mentioned on the title track is necessary and worthy of applause. That being said, this album is the opposite of easy listening. The soundscape he’s created is fascinating and the messaging poignant, but keeping up with the constant and at times sudden musical changes can become tiresome. Something tells us this will shoot straight over the head of the average listener.
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