Album Review: Blank Banshee, ‘MEGA’
Written by Reid Smith on October 17, 2016
Scribed by: Conor Battles
Artist: Blank Banshee
Release Date: October 10, 2016
Photo courtesy of Blankbanshee.bandcamp.com
There’s a certain challenge to soundtracking the future
Visions of a neon-soaked urban sprawl, ripped straight out of Blade Runner, Neuromancer or Shadowrun, dominate the imagination. But for all the futuristic wonder of this world, there is an underlying paranoia, a certain intangible fear that with each technological breakthrough, we are losing a piece of what makes us human. So the challenge is this: how do you convey such a wide array of emotions through the artificial, inorganic medium of electronic music?
Blank Banshee has carved a distinct niche for themselves within the ever-expanding electronic music scene. The project’s blend of fast-paced breakbeat rhythms, soothing vaporwave-esque synths and erratic vocal sampling crafts a sound that is wholly unique. On MEGA, their third album in four years, the production value is amped up, resulting in a sleek, stylized mosaic of a future that is too perfect to exist.
On MEGA, Blank Banshee sounds cleaner than ever before. The production has a sheen of perfectionism that was only hinted at through Blank Banshee’s previous work. The intricacies of the album will take more than one listen to fully appreciate, as its forty minutes become more rewarding with each run through. The trap-influenced drums, replete with breakneck 808s and hard-hitting synthesized snare beats, form a robotic, hypnotic pattern to build a strong base for each track to build off of. The synth work on the melodies, despite being wholly artificial, feels alive on MEGA, writhing and evolving in real time against the repetitive rhythms like a jazz soloist improvising over the band.
For staunchly electronic music, it’s unusual how human Blank Banshee feels on MEGA. This is due in large part to the extensive use of vocal samples. Hearing human voices beneath the computerized cacophony of MEGA serves to anchor the album’s deeply alien sound in something raw and relatable. The inherent humanity in the manic, breathy vocals on “My Machine” adds a sense of intense urgency to the track’s relentless pace. Likewise, the wordless vocal melodies that supplement the icy synthesized strains of songs like “Megaflora” and “Hungry Ghost” are used to make the dense automated sounds of MEGA feel more organic.
What makes Blank Banshee stand out in electronic music is their ability to feel at once futuristic and natural. Rather than double down on the cyberpunk stylings of their contemporaries, there is an undeniably human feel at the core of everything they produce, and that humanity is more apparent than ever on MEGA. There is a certain sincerity in this music that vaporwave missed – irony and satire as an artistic statement only works for so long before it becomes tiresome. On MEGA, the future doesn’t have to be bleak. Human voices can still be heard over the digital revolution.