Bass-heads rejoice–Lorin Ashton, aka Bassnectar, has returned with Noise vs Beauty, another full-length album to add to his already massive discography of bass-heavy home runs.
You can tell that Ashton put a lot into this one. He took a six-month break from touring. He took a cue from Skrillex’s last album and filled up a clown car with countless friends and producers to work with–Zion I, Fashawn, Rye Rye, Lafa Taylor, and many more. He even went so far as to provide individual liner notes for each and every song. In interviews, he speaks of the album with religious fervor, even framing it as a sort of concept album. He intends this to be his magnum opus, something that defines his career. So does it live up to his hopes?
The most distinctive feature of Noise vs Beauty is how sprawling it is, quickly veering from billboard-worthy hooks to bone-shattering bass. On one hand, Bassnectar has already made himself known for his eclecticism, mixing breakbeat, dubstep, trap, drum and bass, downtempo, glitch hop, and even electro pop within a single album. But even for him, Noise vs. Beauty is White Album status. He covers all the extremes and gives them all equal attention.
Right off the bat, he explores those extremes and pits some noise against beauty with the album opener F.U.N. The beauty comes from Seth Drake’s symphonic arrangement, and the noise comes from the vertigo-inducing drops and razor blade bass that’s as grimy as swamp scum.
After that, it seems like noise takes control of the battle, with the insanity of Loco Ono making you understand what it might feel like to babysit Satan’s youngest hell spawn for a night. The manic build hypnotizes before a filthy barrage of off-rhythm wobbles hits in the drop to remind you of Ashton’s metal influences. Lost In The Crowd, Don’t Hate The 808, and Noise all continue to pummel you into the ground with tight dosages of trap and evil G-funk synths, and if that’s not enough aggression for you, just wait for the slamming drum and bass of Gnar.
But beauty fights back with You & Me, on which the spirit of Edge from U2 plays a gorgeous guitar riff over which W. Darling delivers her childlike vocals. A wall of sound and light erupts after the chorus, and the two main characters sit on a hill to hold hands Banksy style while the world meets its end with a nuclear hellfire of destructive square waves. And beauty might have the last laugh, because the one-two punch of Flash Back and So Butterfly (2014 Version) closes the album; the former finds Bassnectar in classic downtempo form, and the latter sparkles and glistens enough to wash away all the leftover filth from the earlier tracks.
There’s a chance that Noise vs Beauty might divide fans because of how drastic the stylistic changes from track to track are. But Bassnectar has always hinted at this level of diversity, remixing everyone from Ellie Goulding to Gogol Bordello, and when you talk to Bassnectar followers, you’ll quickly find that they’re some of the most devoted fans in the electronic music world. They tend to be willing to follow Ashton wherever his mind leads, which I can imagine must be a very liberating feeling for him. The positive effect of that freedom shines here and is bound to only make his future albums even more interesting.
Diversify your collection, and grab Noise vs Beauty on Beatport