III, the third full-length release by the prolific BANKS, begins with a decidedly dusky palette, inviting listeners into a dark, intimate room where BANKS has chosen to reveal her innermost thoughts. The first few songs are cautiously produced. Each beat, each vocal treatment, each synth is precisely and effectively placed. The arrangements rely on synth and vocoder parts that echo traditional string and percussion parts, creating the illusion of an electronic orchestra. Whether in alarmingly stripped-down tracks such as ‘Till Now’ and ‘Contaminated’ or more heavy-handed tracks such as ‘Gimme’, BANKS creates a sensation of realness that will take your breath away.
Once we’re fully immersed in this darkness, however, BANKS takes a sharp turn toward the light. After ‘Godless’ (which feels like a continuation of her 2014 LP ‘Goddess’) we get a series of resolute redemption songs. Again, the arrangements are diverse – from the slender arrangements of ‘Sawzall’ to the bombastic ‘Look What You’re Doing to Me’, these songs show us a BANKS who is stepping into the sunshine after coming to terms with hard facts. Her lover has done her wrong, but that’s ok because she’s in control of the situation. These songs are almost celebratory, particularly the tender strings at the end of ‘Hawaiian Mazes’.
This leads us into the next chapter of our BANKS-led journey. A timpani roll leads us into a groovy, defiant zone. Here, BANKS is neither hiding in a dark room nor standing hopefully in the light. She’s center-stage, declaring her truth, daring us to call her wrong. She has, through the process of the album, understood something about what she and those in her life have done and she’s letting us know precisely what that is.
Then, just in time, two delicate songs bring us back into a world of hope. ‘If We Were Made of Water’ feels like cherry petals being showered upon us in the springtime. ‘What About Love’ feels like being immersed in a lake of profound depth. By the time III comes to a close, with shimmering violins and an acoustic piano, it feels like we have showered in the truth of life and come out clean, but changed.
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