“Noise Vs. Beauty” is a culminating force, representing nearly two decades of musical growth. Since performing psychedelic breakbeats at Burning Man in the 90s, Bassnectar has utilized his vast influence to explore different genres – hip hop, hardcore, dubstep, drum & bass, ambient and beyond. Nothing is safe from this mad scientist.
Naturally, Master Lorin has been working harder than ever. Only two years have passed since he unleashed “Vava Voom” to universal acclaim, but bassheads were served a pair of lengthy mixtapes, an ancient reboot and a very thorough tour schedule to soften the wait. NVSB is the most thematic journey ever cast forth by the king; a concept album to explore “hardcore noise hysteria to lush, ethereal beauty – and many points in between.”
“F.U.N.” kicks things off with an orchestrated bang, marking Bassnectar’s first collaboration with Amorphous resident composer Seth Drake since “Above & Beyond” in 2011. His contribution is no less poignant than last, and even more thorough and haunting. The track is somehow steered from its lengthy intro into a brash, downtune drop. Unlike the album title, there is no official word on what the anagram stands for (though many fans are comfortable settling on warm childhood memories).
Batting first for team noise is “Loco Ono,” the spiritual successor to “Raw Charles” and every bit as bonkers. NVSB’s most visceral track, its hammerhead beat shocks the senses. But Lorin is quick to channel the album’s focus back around the sound spectrum with “You & Me ft. W. Darling,” an interstellar love anthem. Here delightful vocals collide with an empowering guitar riff, resonating as the most accessible track of the lot. At the time of this review, You & Me holds the #2 spot on iTunes top electronic songs!
Frequent contributor Zumbi of Zion I and first-time guest Fashawn spit bars over “Lost in the Crowd,” a trappy number oozing with west coast freshness. The hypnotic melody pairs with a piercing beat, lying somewhere in the middle of the record’s two convergent themes. AFK actually spun this track on his Gnartillery Tour stop at in Hampton, MA several weeks ago – everyone in the room (including myself) would have gotten a kick out of knowing they were being exposed to forthcoming Nectar.
“The Future” ft. Jenna Sousa enhances the moving chord progression formula heard in classics like “Timestretch” and “Boomerang.” Its lucid onset gives way to the timeless, bassy composition that first served as Lorin’s springboard to superstardom. Bubbly synth rattles around the track’s layers, likely to induce spontaneous head-bobbing on any occasion.
Few electronic tunes bare a valid, to-the-point namesake quite like “Gnar.” The beat is fast and ferocius, yet totally approachable for the faint of ear. Many listeners love the audial armegeddon brought on by ‘smashers,’ but Gnar demonstrates the impact any track can still have with control.
The most welcome surprise among all the Beauty is a 2014 remaster of “So Butterfly,” Lorin’s farthest-reaching callback ever to his early days. Dreamy synth ripples overhead an infectious breakbeat, highly symbolic of the earliest ‘Nectarstyle. Originally a cosmic vibe enhancer from his 3rd album “Motations of Mutation” released over ten years ago, the updated version can be blasted with utter transparency.
Diehard fans have been treated to an unpredictable resurgence of classic jams in recent years. Smashville attendees got to groove to Snake Charmer for the first time in a decade on New Year’s Eve, and other poignant tunes like “I Am A Laser“ and “Love Here” have also seen much-appreciated retakes. So Butterfly takes the proverbial cake in that category.
Noise Vs. Beauty succeeds as a glorious compendium of every style Bassnectar has ever dabbled in. “Hold On” ft. TURSI plays much like “Take You Down,” and the chords in “Open Up” ft. Simon Morel bare a resemblance to the “Underworld” remix, as if each tune has a guardian angel smiling upon it in real time. Over 50 different artists helped Lorin grow this staggering accomplishment to fruition. OG bassheads and new listeners will find unity here too, the same way beauty marries noise. And the steps taken outside his largely undefined style serve as the chant for a generation of new believers. With one simple concept in mind, Bassnectar shows us that anything is possible through hard work.
Download NSVB on iTunes and listen to the stream below!