Brighton-based electronic producer Alex Banks unveiled his debut album ‘Illuminate’ on Modeselektor’s Monkeytown label back in 2014, and five years years on, this considerably anticipated follow-up ‘Beneath The Surface’ arrives on Max Cooper’s Mesh label. Upon listening to the ten tracks collected here, it’s immediately obvious why both aforementioned artists felt an aesthetic kinship with Banks’ music, which fuses a sense of dancefloor immediacy with a greater underlying sense of emotional depth, similar to the likes of Clark and John Hopkins.
Indeed, there’s a similar blending of dance music’s visceral qualities with deeply textured IDM, leftfield electro and lush ambience going on here. ‘Immerse’ lifts the curtain on this collection as wafting layers of ambient synths slowly build into a vast wall of orchestral atmosphere, only for clattering broken garage-house rhythms to suddenly lock in against eerie flickering synths and dark moody bass sequences, the rhythms gradually accelerating up into a fluid dancefloor stomp as the spiraling electronics threaten to spin out of control against dubbed out soul vocal fragments.
If anything, it encapsulates the fusion of cinematic contemplation and rhythmic energy that Banks is aiming for here, with the surging ‘Nowhere Left’ pushing the energy levels up even further as shuffling hi-hats mass themselves against cold rippling electro sequences, rattling woodblock-kicks and vast looming sub-bass pressure in a manner that calls to mind the likes of Martyn.
‘New Wonder’ meanwhile represents one of two collaborations here with Icelandic singer Asgeir, its delicate yet bass-loaded blend of gossamer IDM electronics, shuffling broken tech-house rhythms and wobbling bottom end suggesting a closer kinship with Moderat’s treacherously shifting future-pop than anything else. Elsewhere, ‘Lifeforms’ sees a seething techno groove powering beneath surging distorted synth arpeggios and tumbling streamlined electronic sequences, in what’s easily this album’s most darkhearted and furious offering. As dance / leftfield electronic fusions go, ‘Beneath The Surface’ is one classy piece of work.