Brandon Banks Reflects with Emotionally Opaque EP STATIC
Evan Dale // Mar 4, 2020
Over the course of a short couple years, Brandon Banks has developed a vibrant collection of tracks and two EP’s that continue to define a sound washed in Polaroid tones and emotional opacity. The Inglewood singer and songwriter is fond of acoustic layers and honest lyricism, and his latest EP, STATIC, is an exploration first and foremost of those two lanes. Halfway built upon his trio of 2019 singles, LUCY, PICO, and SELF, the 6-track project – in its eternally laid-back identity and understated exploration of top shelf vocals and instrumentation shrined in simplicity – feels reminiscent of music from fellow Inglewood crooner, SiR. But in even more ways, Brandon Banks sounds almost like no other vocalist calling home to acoustic, Neo-Soul, or LA. He is a breath of fresh debonair en route to change understanding of music equal parts easy-listening and deep root.
Texturally, each track and subsequently STATIC at large is a rollercoaster of mellow, poetic moments effortlessly transitioning into explosions of cadence change and vocal exhibition. Brandon Banks regularly reaches a choral pitch and force rarely matched by any vocalist in music, even at the top shelf of scenes adjacent to his own indefinable direction. He’s right there with anyone else, and for that and the fact that he often feels like the auditory equivalent of warm-toned and overexposed photography, he’s an enigma. But for every high, there is a well-balanced low. Juxtaposition is a trademark of Brandon Banks, often and seamlessly combatting his explosive displays with low-fidelity hip-hop runs and timid bridges. And when it all comes together, STATIC is uplifting, earnest, and charged with positivity even through the mire of struggle with self-reflection.
When sound is pushed aside for meaning, STATIC down to its name tells a universally relatable tale on the lack of clarity in self-reflection. Most pronounced on the matter is MIRRORS, explicitly exploring the struggle involved with looking into the mirror and not liking what one sees. But each track rides a similar romanticized, introspective loop. It’s telling and relatable and, in that sense, a rock-solid foundation for a young artist confident in a misunderstanding of inwardly posed confidence.
But, there’s more than that. PICO opens the EP as its romantically inclined bookend. Highlighted by a bright flash of a chorus and myriad changes of stylistic direction somehow effortlessly tethered to one another by the underlying warmth of summertime, PICO is even more at home as STATIC’s introduction than it was a standout, wide-ranging display of a single.
Its antithesis and opposing, closing bookend, BUTTERFLY is a study on mellow melody the likes of which is half acoustic ballad on love and loss and half electronically layered, downtempo R&B on the same subject. Between it and PICO lies the rest of STATIC. Between it and PICO exists nothing if not one of the most brash, wide-ranging, introspective projects of 2020 so far.
Its genius exists in that seeming simplicity and ubiquity even though in reality, it’s one of the more unique and unrepeatable works of modern post-genre music. For fans of R&B, the project is a slam dunk the likes of which – like Dijon’s Sci Fi 1 – is an impossibly experimental look into what the future of the scene may very well come to sound like. For fans of more instrumentally founded traditions, Banks’ affinity for a guitar proves not only impressive, but groundbreaking in its harmony with soulful vocalism and electronic production. Fans of hip-hop, dreamwave sectored electronica, and songwriting in general will also find themselves at home in the words, the voice, and the experimental lane Brandon Banks so faultlessly studies.
All will feel at home in the music as well as the thematic directions that Banks takes, and in that existence, STATIC is experimental music for a future without a delineated pop direction.