The combined forces of The RZA, aka Bobby Steelz (Wu-Tang Clan) and Paul Banks (Interpol) is, at first, a puzzling one. To our knowledge, none of the Wu’s famed 36 Chambers ever contained angular, post-punk rock. And even less rarely would you imagine Interpol venturing into the gritty hip-hop couplets or kung fu flick samples so associated with Da Clan.
First featured on 1993’s seminal Enter The Wu-Tang The RZA’s singular production skills were the perfect counterpoint to the Wu-Tang Clan’s colorful array of MCs. RZA’s understated, brutally efficient approach created soundscapes both menacing and endlessly enticing, and quickly carved out legendary status for the Staten Island crew.
Paul Banks and co.’s artful blend of punk and pop sensibility came to the fore a bit later, with 2002’s Turn on the Bright Lights. Like the Wu, Interpol hailed from New York and made their living in the darker, moodier end of their respective genre. Unlike the Wu…uh, literally everything else about Interpol. Carrying the goth/punk flag of Joy Division and Television into a new era, they crested a popular millennial wave of guitar-driven indie rock, alongside The Strokes, The Hives, and Franz Ferdinand.
Perhaps the key to understanding the Banks & Steelz partnership is the duo’s shared love of chess. Both artists, in their own way, know the value of a balanced attack; of thoughtful, well-laid tactics. Of using past victories to set up future ones. And of not being afraid to try a new approach. All of these philosophies find their way onto Banks & Steelz’s debut album, Anything But Words.
A frantic, brilliant “Giant” kicks off the album, with RZA firing on all cylinders just to keep in time with the track’s near-drum’n’bass rhythmic clip. Banks’ vocal swoops in with the hook just in time for Bobby Steelz to catch a breath. It’s a brilliantly conceived opener.
The meshed styles are equally efficient on ballads like “Conceal” and “One By One,” which bring the unsettled, minor-key vibe of Interpol to bear on RZA’s barbed rhymes. The result is downright dark and surprisingly sexy.
While the Banks & Steelz collaboration was tough enough to foresee, it’s damn near impossible to envision what a live show of this caliber will look like. Which makes their appearance at DC’s 9:30 Club on Wednesday, August 31st a can’t-miss.