The slinky synths that open “Vava Voom” hypnotize you for what is about to come. Bassnectar’s ninth full-length continues the natural progression that has taken place since 2001’s “Freakbeat for the Beatfreaks”. With each record different from the last and a top-tier live show, Bassnectar has grown to be one of the biggest and most exciting forces in electronic Music. The opening, self-titled track continues to push boundaries as ‘Nectar enlists the talented Lupe Fiasco to appear on the LP’s “single”. And while most of the dubstep / rap collaborations you hear sound overly busy, Lorin (Bassnectar) & Lupe deliver what is possibly the greatest hybrid the two genres have seen.
As the record progresses, the realization of ‘Nectar’s progression sets in. “Ugly” sees a rare display of Drum n Bass, while the “Pennywise Tribute” is an ode to Lorin’s roots and relies on Pennywise’s classic punk-rock anthem “Bro Hymn”. The beautiful part of the Bassnectar family is that the entire crowd, whether well-schooled on punk rock or not, will be screaming “Woah oh oh oh” like they were at Warped Tour 1999. He has an amazing way of crossing genres and allowing one to enjoy a style of music he would not normally find himself listening to. It’s what sets him apart from the rest of this EDM boom.
In “Ping Pong”, a match of table tennis is the foundation for another bass-heavy classic. The familiar “clicks” and “clacks” act as percussion in this instant crowd favorite (the place went nuts in Tallahassee when we saw him there recently). “What” featuring Jansten sees the producer reaching out to lesser known cohorts for collaboration. Where some artists rely on features to catapult album sales or interest, Bassnectar uses his partnerships to explore unknown areas and create new sounds. This is apparent with his ongoing teamwork with producer ill.gates.
“Like This” featuring ill.gates sits at 90 bpm for that classic Bassnectar dubstep sound. It’s a sound he has perfected with tunes such as “Wildstyle Method”, “Here We Go”, “Basshead”, “Upside Down”, “Voodoo” and continues to explore this tempo with in “Vava Voom” (about half of the songs are at the traditional dubstep tempo of 70 bpm, the other half around 90). Following the ill.gates joint effort is a remake of “Laughter Crescendo”. Originally on 2005’s “Mesmerizing The Ultra”, the 2012 version utilizes more actual laughter as an instrument and a thicker bassline. This song makes me feel as if I’m in Narnia chasing after this girl’s laugh so I can jump on flying water lilys with her and go surfing through the galaxy. But that’s ‘Nectar for you… (okay, maybe that’s just me).
The following two tracks, “Butterfly” featuring Mimi Page & “Nothing Has Been Broken” featuring Tina Malia, play like a toned down “Magical World” or “Lights”. I don’t mean that in a bad way though… not at all. They are toned down in the sense that the tracks don’t seem to be crafted around the vocals, but instead utilize them to create more harmony. “Butterfly” doesn’t have actual lyrics, but the angelic vocalization of Mimi Page is just as affective as the deepest words one could write. “Nothing Has Been Broken” sees even less singing than “Butterfly”, but the bassline picks up where the voice falls off. Bassnectar is careful to never overcrowd his songs and proves that more than ever on these two tracks. Where many producers will abuse an amazing songstress, Lorin merely picks their vocal chords to fill the gap his computer and MIDI instruments can not emulate.
Ironically, the track that follows up these back to back soulful jams starts off as a Black Metal song, but not before a debriefing silence. “Chronological Outtakes” is clips, bits, pieces and (obviously) outtakes from what seem to be songs never finished. Although I wouldn’t consider this to be an actual song on the record, it is definitely an interesting look in to the producers brain.
Ultimately what we’re left with is the next chapter in the gallant Bassnectar series. As his crowds have grown from bars and clubs to huge venues and arenas, his music has advanced immensely as well. Just like the Beatles, Bassnectar’s albums are not all a precise representation of exactly what he is, but that is what makes him, and the Beatles, fantastic. He is constantly reinventing himself, pushing limitations and creating fresh sounds. Along with a great attitude and incredible live performance, Bassnectar has once again proven why he is a robot lion in this EDM kingdom.