Whether or not Lee Bannon’s latest album is consumed in plastic, vinyl, or digital format, it is, indeed, fantastic. The LP sees Bannon reaching further into the depths of sonic experimentation than ever before. On the one hand, the Sacramento-based producer-extraordinaire embraces the same dusty, lo-fi aesthetic that is associated with some of his most notable production credits. However, there is also a marked departure from that sound and a tendency toward futuristic ‘head music’. It all amounts to an album that is simultaneously forward-thinking and traditionalist, while still sounding unmistakably like a rap album.
Fantastic Plastic is a meticulously-assembled collection that shifts gears at break-neck speed. The overarching theme of ‘tension and release’ makes for a gripping listening experience. The result is a suite of unpredictable samples, glitched-out passages that are sure to up your pulse a few notches, and guest spots from a slew of emcees, including Yu, Chuuwee, Del the Funky Homosapien, Chuck Inglish (of the Cool Kids), and the Rebel INS himself (AKA Inspektah Deck).
What makes this more a cohesive musical statement–and less a ‘mixtape’ (whatever that means in 2k12)–is the positioning of these artists throughout the record. Instead of opting for traditional song structures, verses come and go as if beamed in by some higher power. The reappearance of these guests at multiple points on the album also contribute to this effect. In the same way that Madvillain’s classic debut kept listeners guessing even after repeated spins, Lee Bannon has created a journey that relies on the balance created by its individual parts.
The manic, borderline-seizure-inducing “Search & Destroy” is followed by Del leisurely killing it over a breezy guitar riff and a raw, un-enhanced drum break. Del provides another high point on “The Things,” with a backdrop that makes the instant head-nod impossible to avoid.
Clocking in at just over 35 minutes, the LP’s 18 tracks are a lot to digest. At times, Fantastic Plastic can be an exhausting listen, but it is ultimately a rewarding one that helps to push the genre forward and into the unknown.
- Dylan Grier