Posted by: Jimmy For Reals on June 7, 2014
Short of going into full blown hyperbole meltdown mode, I think it’s safe to say that this new LP from Brighton’s Alex Banks is about as promising a debut album as anyone could wish for. Illuminate is a good hour’s worth of hyper-spatial dance music, roving across a range of genres and styles with such reckless abandon that it’ll leave you feeling drained and disorientated by the time it breathes its last. As an album it’s as immersive as it is ambitious, comprised of eclectic long form tracks that metamorphose perpetually, as though fuelled from within by a sentient mutagen that desperately wants to be heard and understood.
If that seems like a lot to take on board, you’d be right, it is – but Banks largely has the dexterity and nous to make this changeling approach work. This isn’t to say it isn’t without momentary lulls – there’s always a risk of losing focus with tracks regularly run over the six minute mark, and whilst Banks can more than match the likes of DjRum and Jon Hopkins in maintaining purpose and direction over this distance, one or two of tracks feel like they could have ended at bit sooner. That said, even at its tangential worst Illuminate is still a thoroughly engaging listen, and when it really hits its stride it has the power to draw you so wholly into its world that everything becomes music and nothing else seems to matter anymore.
Vocalist Elizabeth Bernholz steps away from her oddball Gazelle Twin persona and delivers some immense vocals on three lynchpin tracks – coming across like an unstoppable elemental force that assimilated Beth Gibbons and Hannah Cartwright before tearing into the recording studio. She compliments the dynamic widescreen production perfectly, especially on the riotous All You Could Do, which stomps its way to a crescendo before unleashing a roiling storm of kick drum edits and warbling arpeggios. Picking highlights is pretty superfluous, but I particularly dug Solar which sounds like a tooled up Fourtet going rogue with a wandering flautist in tow, the chopped-vocal bounce of Phosphorous and A Matter of Time, which might as well have been lifted straight out of a musical compendium of futuristic folk tales.
Illuminate is out now via Monkeytown Records.
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