19 April 2010

Bassnectar, an electronic musical organism fronted by Lorin Ashton but backed by many various collaborators, has producing records since 2001. However, Bassnectar hasn’t really shown itself as a legitimate force on the scene until recently. The previous sound of Bassnectar seemed to piece itself together out of the 90’s, when electronic musicians were lost in obscurity and late-night MTV slots, doomed to flat repetition and digital gargling. But Bassnectar has risen against the criticism (even Pitchfork’s 2.8 for Underground Communication, for what it’s worth) of its early efforts and come to embody something worth mentioning in the technosonic field, mainly for its extensive sampling, mixing and synthesis of beats and tones.

Lorin Ashton has been prevalent at music festivals all over the States, most notably Burning Man, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Coachella, Lollapalooza, Rothbury, Burning Man, Ultra Music Festival, Bonnaroo, All Good Music Festival, Diversafest, and Shambhala. Through such an extensive touring regimen, Ashton and his crew have gathered a relatively large base of dedicated fans, some of whom consider Bassnectar to a social experiment or cultural movement. There is no doubt that Bassnectar is quite unlike many contemporary electronic artists, and though it’s debatable whether or not it can be merited as a cultural movement, it is definitely something worth paying attention to.

Bassnectar can be seen as the modern product of Mathews, Tenney, Risset, and Chowning’s computer music. Ashton himself describes his music as “omnitempo maximalism,” which may just be his way of justifying the disregard he has for traditional musical limitations. Bassnectar’s second-to-latest piece, Cozza Frenzy of 2009 (Timestretch was just released on March 30th), may be the most notable release to date. It’s arms reach further into different realms of music and history and somehow pull together something more coherent and functional than ever before. The chronological fluency is one of the most unifying features of the album, holding something that could easily self-destruct restrained in a powerful balance so that its full potential can be harnessed, like a nuclear reactor. This makes the album a tricky beast to deal with; stopping in the middle of the album is like pressing pause during the middle of a song, it’s jarring and unpleasant. Listening to the whole album in one sitting is a sizeable endeavor, but the myriad of samples and synths combined with the ever-morphing bassline should keep any listener occupied.

The ingenuity of Cozza Frenzy begins on the throbbing of the (not so) surprisingly addictive “Boombox.” Featuring driving beats and hard-hitting vocals, this track is a charming, habit-forming introduction. This song, with its undulations and warped feeling, is a good single to attempt to describe Bassnectar. The title track is featured next, with two different interpretations of. The original track is piggy-backed by the “Mega Bass Remix,” and these two deviations complement each other without getting terribly repetitive, though one might just choose their favorite (the Mega Bass Remix being about half-speed, with other remix tricks thrown in) and listen through the album with only one. “The Churn of the Century” is particularly enjoyable, beginning with layered trumpets-on-a-gramophone sounds before a throbbing bass-line pulses into dominate the low-end of the song. Though the song features possibly the least number of elements, this track is frantic, with a complex time and diverse range of sounds.

Discovering the rest of the album is up to the listener, and as always, everyone has their own way of hearing, this is merely an interpretation.

“We are so blessed, and so deeply fortunate to be alive and awake right now…it’s a basic truth, but it’s very powerful. I think privilege confers responsibility, and Bassnectar is a reflection of that opportunity to give back; the motion of my cells bouncing back at the world.” - Lorin Ashton