Discover more from Polemics
Blank Banshee - 4D (2023)
The fifth album by the post-vaporwave electronic act
Here we are, on the fifth album by “vapor trap” musician, Blank Banshee!
I can’t believe I saw Blank Banshee live in 2017 during his first show in Philadelphia, and I reviewed or gave my “first reactions” to his fourth album, Gaia, released at midnight or 3am EST on November 30th, 2020.
Yesterday morning, San Francisco time, Blank Banshee uploaded his new album on YouTube, “4D.”
“…4D??” Wouldn’t it be “5D” because it’s the fifth album? Not sure. But I do like how the first album is called “0” and the second album is called “1.” So having the fifth album called “4” plays in that irregular tradition.
5D is loaded with 15 tracks, no longer than 4 minutes, and on average around 2 minutes. The album begins with the Netrunner abstraction, "Run,” where we will hack into the system. Next comes up with the lead single, “Sundial.” Sundial reminds me of Necros’ “Mindspring” from his 1997 tracker release, or “musicdisc,” System. Colorful and dazzling with IDM breaks and a quirky lead. This song alone is the highlight of the album. Definitely a quick worm ear worth your day.
“Good Times,” as flat as it sounds, continues the previous tradition of “Frozen Flame” and “Tetralix,” as a very laid-back and cheery track filled with Sega Genesis leads, bit-crushed 80’s drums, and quirky hints of Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. The broken guitar and inverted sample hit make Good Times a memorable song about enjoying the background muzak for the option select screen of an anime romance game.
“Scud” is another “Bath Salts” electro-modular beat. I can’t help but think of the comic of the same name, “Scud: The Disposable Robot.” Another harsh jammer from Banshee that is sure to move the most arrogant and stereotypical Chad into date rape “electronic dance music.”
“Peagasus,” followed by “Trojan Horse,” continues the cyberpunk “ICE” theme of cyber hologram avatars that protect computer programs from hackers. Or, be it a trojan horse accessing the mega corporations’ agenda files. Spacious, serious, and delicate. The bright synth lead in Trojan Horse is playful like a Boards of Canada nostalgic trip on corporate abuse. Trojan Horse is like a martial industrial act without folkish instruments, more in tune with Mickey Hart and as a stand-up drum kit performance.
“Contra” is beautiful. A synthpop and EBM (not “EDM”) driven track that reminds me of Anything Box, Information Society, and Art of Noise. This track could quickly be dubbed as generic 1980s synthpop, but instead lost in the cyberspace of anime-influenced video games for hopeless romantics.
“Lost Angles” could have been named after the Canadian record label of the same name. It sparks the nostalgia of Sonic 3D Blast for Sega Saturn, Red Flag, and Enigma. As a joke, one can drive to Los Angeles with Lost Angles on the radio. Another highlight track that is sparkled with dial-up, 90’s synth drops, and JRPG arousal.
“Hall of Mirrors” plays on the circus, carnival, or tarot theme of Blank Banshee. I could as well have this track on as I get lost in an actual mirror maze in Wildwood, New Jersey. “Dome 23” lacks the ambiguity and drive, and feels like another dry fill, like Gaia’s “Neo Geo.”
“Time Thief” is funny. A special shock moment is found in anime where there is a “surprise” reveal by the dark horse. The synth is something, yet loses its charm after a few listens. “Mine Sweeper” is a novelty, in that I want to play Mine Sweeper with this song on. “Spirit Season” feels like Gaia’s “Uncanny Valley” with an edge, or as some fan puts it, “I feel like a skeleton warrior fighting for undead hordes to get to the temple.”
“Warhead” is a rampant mosh track, reminding me of the final boss in Vectorman. And the album closes with “Tracer,” another Netrunner allusion about being “traced” by the corporation. And in some editions, “Revelations” is the actual final track. A sad, menacing closure.
…So what can I say about this release compared to the others?
My criticism of Gaia, compared to the third album, Mega, is that Gaia had no unique samples or nostalgic hints of popular culture of the 80s and 90s. It was all synthetic and atmospheric.
4D is the three-year lead-up to Gaia. 4D feels more experimental and much harsher than any other Blank Banshee release. “1” was his Magnus opus, and “Mega” was a party starter, but 4D falls short of any of the two and feels like the regurgitations of samples and his is losing its flare. In other words, Blank Banshee is losing his novelty, and entering a new stage of an existential crisis. How long, for the last decade, can he keep this up? Nostalgia and pop music may keep up the pace, but Banshee isn’t providing anything new and is now slowly turning out an entirely new trilogy of albums, starting with Gaia, and now with 4D, that feels big, hollow, and empty.
With his second-ever tour on the way, many new audiences will discover how crafty and fun his electronic music is. “Sundial” reminds us of this importance. But is 4D another byproduct of 2023, and itself, the transformation of vaporwave into normal electronic music?
4D stands out as the better sequel to Mega, yet, unfortunately, came out 7 years later. Many things have moved on since then, and Blank Banshee is entering a mid-life crisis. The question is, will he survive it?
I give this album 3 out of 5 stars.