Posted on July 8th, 2015 (11:00 am) by Michael Negron

Pattern of Excel was marketed, if not formulated, as a pseudo-shakeup. He’s "gone ambient!" or so they say. Listening to what Lee Bannon, who will hereafter use "¬ b" for his namesake, has to say about the record, things makes a lot more sense: he describes his 2nd LP as a continuation of the ambient ideas presented in Alternate/Endings, even going so far as to say the record simply "goes deeper." Unsurprisingly, the music fits that narrative a lot closer, and is probably better for it: Pattern of Excel is an engaging, if at times meandering mix, solidly planted somewhere in the ether between Bannon's jungle influences and redoubled ambient efforts.

Still, it’s important to realize this ain’t Brian Eno-variety ambient, and exactly how "deep" it is, or how deeply indebted it is to its ambient fixation, is certainly questionable. This is an experimental album in the most literal sense of the word; Bannon cobbles together ideas that should, in theory, make sense, and are often so commonly-utilized – at least on paper – that they border on nondescript. The album’s starter, "Good/Swimmer," is a good midway point between the more conventional, percussion-driven tracks and their counterparts, but it’s less a standard than an outlier.

You’ll find a polarized album from there on in; beginning with the succeeding track, lead single "Artificial Stasis," it’s clear that Bannon is more commonly altering tropes than inventing them. Piano-driven, sample-based, and lightly percussive, on first impression it’s all deceptively understated, but everything stays a little too long for comfort; for almost exactly two minutes, it plods along at a slow but soothing pace, until the carefully crafted atmosphere is ripped out from under it by what is essentially just a conversation. Rarely does music evoke such a singular impression as what is created here – the experience of waking up from a dream – but by allowing his ideas the space needed, he makes spectacular use of an otherwise limited tool set.

Tracks like this are unfortunately hard to come by, but that’s probably because most of the tracks are notably distinct from each of the others. Whether it’s the curious synth-vocals of "Suffer Gene" and its 9-second-blurb of a cousin, "refoah," the 80s-styled synths of "Aga," or the surprisingly percussive "inflatable," the majority of tracks on the album maintain an identity without sounding out-of-place together. You may be thinking that “surprisingly percussive” doesn’t exactly sound ambient, and you would be right; Pattern often finds itself on the fringe of ambient, unable or unwilling to shake off its roots entirely. Whether that’s a good thing is difficult to say; the highs from the album come as often from the ambient side of things ("Artificial Stasis," "Towels") as the more traditional ("inflatable," "Memory 6"). It’s mostly up to preference, as Bannon works as well in one as the other, and proves adept at making them work together.

Bannon may have been going for a purely ambient experience, but it’s more likely that his statement carries the same knowing simplicity as his music: this is a continuation, an exercise in exploration. The result is something of a pendulum, swaying back and forth between the new and old. Pattern of Excel never quite hits that happy medium, or even fully delves into its new form, but as an extension of Bannon’s history it’s intriguing and pretty original, if nothing else.

Track List:

  1. Good/Swimmer
  2. Artificial Stasis
  3. dx2
  4. Suffer Gene
  5. refoah
  6. Shallowness is the root of all evil
  7. Paofex
  8. kanu
  9. Aga
  10. inflatable
  11. DAW in the Sky for Pigs
  12. Disneµ Girls
  13. SDM
  14. Memory 6
  15. Towels
Lee Bannon: Pattern of Excel
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

64 / 100
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