Banks & Steelz- Anything But Words

3 Jul

Banks_&_Steelz_-_Anything_But_Words_cover_art.jpg

In a year filled with great albums, Anything But Words is one of 2016s real surprises. On the surface, the debut of super-duo RZA and Paul Banks sounds like a gimmick. An unlikely collaboration with one of rap’s greats and uh, the lead singer from Interpol, Banks & Steelz goes against the wisdom that musicians from different musical genres can’t mix.

Right from the start, Anything But Words dispels any fears of a mismatch. ‘Giant’ speeds along on roving guitar as RZA speed-shouts verses like he’s plugged into a city grid. The fact that it manages to avoid sounding like nu-metal or a novelty single is a testament to just how well their dynamic works.

Their success is even more evident on tracks which should favour one of the collaborators over the other. Listening to the synth pop of ‘Ana Electronica’ or the post-punk rock of ‘Speedway Sonora’, the interplay between RZA’s raps and Banks’ baritone is so deft that it never jars. They feel like they have been at it for years.

Even the guest stars don’t feel like intruders. Kool Keith appears on ‘Sword in the Stone’ (featuring some welcome touches of fuzzy guitar and electronic piano), while Florence Welch plays RZA’s love interest on ‘Wild Season’, Method Man and Master Killa on ‘Point Of View’, and Ghostface Killah on ‘Love and War’.

The album is filled with surprises. ‘Conceal’ is a slow, prowling groove that exists on the border between nu wave and a seventies slow jam, while ‘Can’t Hardly Feel’ and ‘One By One’ highlight the diverse origins of trip hop, mixing Banks’ drone-like chorus with RZA’s verses in a way that recalls hip hop and electronica.

A winning combination which never comes across as a gimmick, Banks & Steelz are one supergroup that is worth paying attention. If you missed Anything But Words the first time, it is worth checking out.

 

By Tim George

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