Album review: Banks – The Altar

Clearly a true artist in every sense, the Banks brand has always had a very particular look as well as sound. The two recent video releases from the album (Gemini Feed and **** With Myself) suggest that she may be leaning towards a more eccentric style, proving that you don’t need to be Lady Gaga to make a statement. Will her new music reflect this potential change in direction or is she purely just spreading her artistic wings?

Gemini Feed opens with traditional Banks themes of toxic relationships, laced with a synthetic palette and surprisingly upbeat arrangement. Her vocal layering is as strong as ever, the backing vocals and ad lib’s in the verses are particularly bittersweet. The balance between the dark verse lifting up into the chorus is immaculate, instantly proving with the opening track that she has not lost her touch. Next up is **** With Myself which has an incredibly twisted video to match the strange production. Its simplistic rhythm lays the foundation for another strong piece. Banks is showing no signs of slowing down until Lovesick comes in with a much more somber approach, showing her softer side lyrically as well as sonically. Mind Games is also more of a ballad, the slow analogue bass tones and chords marrying beautifully with the piano composition. Her voice is angelic as ever but full of pain, the intro features some clever layering of different pitches and effects before dropping smoothly into a tight, minimal beat.

The album takes a very different turn after these downbeat tracks, Trainwreck instantly switches into a more urban aesthetic. Fans of the Weeknd, Beyonce and Rihanna in particular will favour this track, it has a bittersweet vocal on top of trap style drum trills and booming bass. Her vocal delivery is also completely different, especially noticeable on the aggressive but tasteful chorus. After the more experimental This Is Not About Us, and another brilliant Banks style piece named Weaker Girl, we are banks-650-430treated to an onslaught of vocal acrobatics. Mother Earth is based around acoustic guitar, cellos and of course Banks’ engrossing songwriting. Once again her trap / R&B roots are on display on Judas, the arrangement is perfectly matched to the vocal. An atmospheric affair featuring expertly pitched vocal layers again, the drums follow the steady delivery of her humble melodies. Another perfect example of Banks on top form, with producers Tim Anderson and Al Shux clearly understanding exactly what is needed to compliment her. Haunt manages to add some extra energy with its Caribbean rhythms alongside the usual array of cold sounds, the lyrics tell the tale of a cheating boyfriend.

It seems like she may have saved the best until last with the final three tracks more than holding their own, Poltergeist and 27 Hours are back on the classy trap tip whereas To The Hilt is another innocent piano piece accompanied by another whispered song about love and pain. Every track on this album deserves a mention but the final piece is in a league of its own. Not only has Banks delivered one of her most gripping performances, but the cinematic and orchestral elements have added a great deal to the mix. It is much more over-produced than her preferred quirky minimalism, however, it sounds perfectly at home alongside the rest of her work. The instrumentation and choice of melodies give it a slightly more Pop friendly feel, without losing her edge. This will hopefully help to bridge the gap towards mainstream success. Thoroughly recommended listening on a nice pair of over ear headphones, why not come and hear it on our wide range at Richer Sounds today?


Author: Alex, Bristol Store