We live in a world of unintended consequences. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” as they say. So what are we to make of Bassnectar – Dubstep Rumsfeld to Skrillex’s Cheney, EDM Pandorametheus – and his innocently or not so innocently loosing of a panoply of wubs (woes) onto the unsuspecting citizens of the world?
Bassnectar, AKA Lorin Ashton, released his first full-length album in 2001, long before ravenous, MDMA (Molly) fueled masses hurled glowsticks in ritual frenzy at summer’s hundreds of crowded music festivals, clamoring for “the drop” with bloodshot, glassy eyes. Did he know what he was doing then – what “Dubstep” would come to represent? Hard to picture idealistic young Ashton, progressive causes worn on his sleeve, setting out to create a brutish and self-indulgent subgenre of abrasive synthesizer sweeps for bros to bro out to.
So let’s just reiterate, unintended consequences can be painful. I’ve seen Bassnectar in concert, and he’s a fun performer – waist length hair swinging back and forth as he moves in laser-etched silhouette between his various computers and controllers. However, before one show, the young woman I was attending with made a comment.
“I listened to a bunch of Bassnectar stuff to prepare for this.”
“Yeah… it wasn’t very good.”
She wasn’t being mean – we pretty much went the music festival that day to see Bassnectar! However, I can say that in my attempts at “getting into” Bassnectar I have felt confused and a little bored. I can only take so much Bass Heavy EDM at once, and Bassnectar has so many albums that I didn’t know where to start.
However I did discover one Bassnectar gem that I will cherish forever – a vision of what dubstep can be, when producers use their skills in pursuit of the gorgeous and expansive futurism that synthetic music ever seems to promise but rarely deliver…
That song is “Love Here (Bassnectar Remix)”[i] from Cozza Frenzy. Bassnectar is at his best here, taking Mr. Projectile’s lush, sensual daydream and embellishing it into a flyover of a throbbing, neon-lit, futuristic metropolis. Deep bass rattles our bodies and souls while workmanlike wubs provide motive and melodic power to Bassnectar’s vision. Raw, drum sounds dance and skitter across the sound field in irregular patterns and rhythms. Untethered from the essential physical labor[ii], gorgeous spectral vocals and long-form synthesizers unfurl their spectacular colors across crepuscular skies.
One could argue that Mr. Nectar is piggybacking here, and that the comely, melodic essence of the song is essentially being borrowed, even hijacked, from the original. However, Bassnectar’s comprehensive overhaul of the song’s impact and presence takes the ethereal and fleeting “You Need” and makes it a hard-driving juggernaut, without sacrificing the essential romance at its innocent heart. It is like a ride tastefully pimped, including a notable boost in horsepower. Much is gained, little is lost – which is an admirable goal for any remix.
However, I struggled with these ideas of re-appropriation on another Remix appearing on Cozza Frenzy – “When I Grow Up” originally by Fever Ray. For a while I thought it was a straight up lazy Remix. “I’ll just add some low end here, some louder drums, a goofy sample at the beginning aaaand work complete! You’ve done it again Ashton!” seemed Bassnectar’s cynical M.O. However, upon further listens, I realized that the Remix just has so much more power than the original, but with essentially the same content in the middle. It’s much more versatile and immediate. Who can shake their fist at an improvement like that?
Additionally “Love Here (Bassnectar Remix)” is a wonderful song to conjure up when people are playing music off youtube at parties. Compliments are almost guaranteed, so long as you don’t try to force it into a “dance block” or any other unseemly place. It’s hard to find a song that is this pleasing on so many levels, and by an artist that won’t provoke howls of “What is this esoteric underground shit!?”
I have been toying with the idea of creating an opportunistic Yin to Bassnectar’s Yang. I would produce under the name “Treblesyrup”, and release LP after LP of shrill, tinny dance songs…
[i] Which oddly enough, is actually a remix of “You Need”, not “Love Here”. Both songs appear on Mr. Projectile’s “Sinking” album.
[ii] That is, making bodies move.