Some two years in the making, Alex Banks’ debut album emerges like the butterfly from a most prolonged gestation on June 2nd, courtesy of Modeselektor’s Monkeytown label. And ‘Illuminate’ has certainly been worth waiting for.
Brighton-based Banks has been responsible for some most excellent remixes in his time – for the likes of Bonobo and Andreya Triana – and came to the attention of Monkeytown off the back of a demo. Says label boss/Modeselektor member Gernot Bronsert: “It’s very seldom that we receive a demo from a nearly unknown artist, who we sign right away for a three-album deal.”
So, expect ‘Illuminate’ to be just the beginning of a beautiful friendship between artist and label. For those unfamiliar with what Banks has to offer, think Nicolas Jaar, Moderat (makes sense), Art Department and that man Bonobo: there are certainly parallels at play, albeit not to the extent where this music isn’t categorically its maker’s own alone.
Or, let Banks (pictured above) explain where he is with things, right now:
“‘Illuminate’ is a reflection of where I’m at as musician and producer at the moment, and takes influence from a lot of the different music I’m inspired by. Before starting work on it I spent a month in Thailand with a hard drive full of new music to take time out and seek inspiration, listening to lots of Bonobo, Four Tet, Moderat, Phon.o, Amon Tobin, Burial and Clark, to name but a few. I then returned to the UK buzzing with energy and started sketching out ideas for the album. Two years later I was putting the finishing touches to the mixes having completed the most immersive project I’ve ever worked on.
“The vocals on the songs are by fellow Brighton resident Elizabeth Bernholz, aka Gazelle Twin. Having met through mutual friends we tried working together on ‘All You Could Do’ (video below), and finding that her voice seemed to fit perfectly with my sound we then went on to write ‘Silent Embrace’ and ‘A Matter of Time’. The other vocals on the album are mostly from Cate Ferris and Hannah Thomas, both of whom are singers I’ve worked with on other projects from which I’ve sampled and then warped and manipulated to create something totally new.
“Around the time I began working on the album I started getting really into analogue gear and so bought a few (old and new) synths to experiment with. These have featured heavily on a lot of the tracks as I find the analogue warmth sits well amongst the dusty vinyl textures, intimate vocals and dark atmospherics. Everything was recorded in the digital domain and I enjoy working with software technology for all it’s cutting edge creative potential, but I like to use it in a way that captures some vibe and a human element which is so important to me in the music I write and listen to. I think that’s what people connect with most when they hear my work and is something that can be found throughout ‘Illuminate’.”
Listen to ‘Illuminate’ via Spotify below…
Alex is interviewed in the new issue of Clash magazine, details here.