The acclaim of the LA beat scene, which took root as a “movement” around ’08, has left its aesthetic residue all over beat-smiths from varying genres across the globe. From its inception, I found myself drawn to, yet also very critical of the music being produced. Replacing the older generation’s MPCs and SPs with computer programs (i.e., Fruity Loops, Logic and Reason) new producers still accumulated and collage-like sounds, it’s just more likely to be a manipulated found noise than say an old jazz loop or soul chop. The effects have at times been breathtaking, but more often than not, soulful groove and normative song structure have been replaced by pretentious experimentation and cold didactic noise montages that come across like aimless sonic atmospheres. Sacramento native Lee Bannon finds his debut Fantastic Plastic exhibiting the best and worst of the beat generation. Though Bannon draws from beat scene he is more firmly rooted in hip-hop traditionalism.
One of the album’s best moments, “Search & Destroy”, features Chuck English boasting over a beat that sounds like the theme music to a sci-fi drama about a smoked-out lonely robot who finds love. Fantastic Plastic also has some lovely instrumental gems like “Phone Drone”, “Grey”, “Lord Gnarlon” and “Shout Out To Bannon (In Color)”. On these songs Bannon finds the balance between age-old American space funk and the electronic overtones of our tech-savvy A.D.H.D. social media age. More than anything Lee Bannon, like many of his contemporaries, is the progeny of techniques and formulas established by the great and under acknowledged Prefuse 73. One track has two, three, maybe four movements within its time frame; any of which can be abruptly be cut short right when you’re getting into the song, while certain grooves and sounds re-occur throughout the album. At times this technique can be very annoying, while at other times it’s very pleasing.
Unfortunately Fantastic Plastic is flooded with bleeps, blops, drones, and buzzing that do nothing to aid in fueling the frantic narrative it seems to be trying to speak, but never truly develops. I wish Bannon would’ve gotten more singers to sing and rappers to rap on his productions. “Out of Here” with Yu is a flawless notic stew of grimy soul and outer-world sound articulation that works because of its human and electronic qualities. Without a voice too may of these beats become formless and repetitive noises. Within Fantastic Plastic there is a marvelous EP of progressive and experimental sounds that create great songs, be it with raps or otherwise. Yet, the fact of the matter is, too often the album gets lost in Bannon’s self-indulgent “ohh shit you hear what I’m doing here” posturing. Without hesitation I would recommend people give this album a listen, I just wish it was a bit more concise, and less meddling.