Lee Bannon's 'Gnarlon Bando's Midnight Noir' is an eleven track album that dropped New Year's Day. "The instrumental soundtrack to an imaginary movie" reads one line, alone and resolute at the bottom of the page. It invites a certain intrigue in its vague ambiguity, and I soon found myself surrounded by experimentation and hip hop sensibilities worthy of such anticipation! Based in Sacramento California, Bannon creates in 'Midnight Noir' a soundscape as fascinating to explore as any. A breath of its crisp air inflates your lungs as the muffled screeches and thundering purrs of numerous cars fly past you, lights blurring and flashing and flooding the street in light. Looking up, the emptiness of the sky seems at once both a desperate plea for silence and an acknowledgement of the gods. Slow rain drips from the street-lights, splashing with delicate euphoria upon the cold pavement slabs, sliding into a crack you never realised was there. A surreal feeling washes over you as you listen to the strange transcendence of 'Gnarlon Bando's Midnight Noir', a sense of unparalleled quiet. I remembered night rides home, my warm forehead pressed against the window as the cold reality of the glass rippled through my mind. I could retain a state of disbelieving bliss, the pane acting like a filter between my world and theirs. Rain danced past my eyes, the sight of outside refracted and skewed by the warm pulsating glow of street-light after street-light racing past. I remained completely still. Everything else blurred, as I bathed in my serenity.
The album opens with 'Nightshift Part 1', ambient rain setting the scene. A phone rings amidst the downpour, a throbbing hum lending a heavy, ominous air to the precedings. An attenuated sample introduces ethereal, angelic complexities that flucuate and swirl to form part two of this dual number. A sensual beat and subtle melody are surrounded by sounds I've never heard before. Static buzzes are utilised in a soothing manner, synths beautiful against a powerful, stormy backdrop. Slow deliberation and contemplation radiating out of 'Discovery' make me feel as though I'm hearing chillwave for the first time. Initially I got the impression it was going to be a danceable number, but Bannon affirms his position on the pinnacle of ambient hip hop. The rain returns for 'The Motive', three and a half minutes of undeniable perfection. An innocent sample introduces it, mutating and transforming over twenty seconds to become a low, nightmarish voice, his breathing heavy with the weight of unforgiven guilt. The melody here is stunning, reflected off the city lights and commercial banners. Nostalgic harmonies flow in and out as you fall, uncontrollably, into a groove. An already prominent experimental ethos is amplified and emulated here, and I, well, adore it!
'Arcade Scene' changes things up a bit, throwing a pop sample in there and remixing it to create a heart-pounding action sequence. A conversation sparks a set of speedy synth phrases and scope-infused choruses worthy of the next number, 'The Chase'. Surprisingly slower than its predecessor, racing car samples litter the sonic floor, setting the scene for the following four minute 'Shoot-Out'. Previously cited as being the soundtrack to a movie, you realise in the second half of the album how true that actually is. Everything links with everything else, merging and amalgamating under 'Gnarlon Bando's Midnight Noir', which isn't far from being the most consistent and 'together' album I've heard in a while. After the lingering dance sample of 'The Count Down' dies down we're left with 'The End'. A suitably upbeat and happy conclusion to this record's tale, I've loved every single one of its twists and turns. A surreal adventure brimming with thrills and chills and ultimate merriment, Lee Bannon has tied of all those emotions together and presented them in the best possible way. Outstanding production. Outstanding story-telling. It's an outstanding machination of musical goodness, so stream 'The Motive Part 2' below and purchase the full album here!