One of the most eclectic figures in the Golden State’s thriving dance music community, DJ/producer Lorin Ashton, aka Bassnectar, continues to hop from sub-genre to sub-genre in an attempt to fuse two contrasting sensory qualities on his tenth studio effort, Noise vs. Beauty.
Initially recorded with just an acoustic guitar and piano, the follow-up to 2012’s Vava Voom features occasional traces of the latter, namely the delicate piano motif which features throughout the cinematic opener “F.U.N.,” the dreamlike synths of instrumentals “Ephemeral” and “Flash Back” and the closing remix of “So Butterfly,” the celestial chill-out anthem which first appeared on 2003’s Motions of Mutation.
But unsurprisingly, considering Bassnectar’s moniker, it’s the louder element which undoubtedly reigns supreme on the majority of these fifteen tracks. Thankfully, the 36-year-old’s inventive streak and carefully-assembled roll-call of guest artists ensure that Noise vs. Beauty rarely descends into the kind of generic frat-boy fare that has plagued his fellow long-haired speaker-blasting Californian native Skrillex.
There are still plenty of thunderous drops and dubstep wobbles to keep the bass crowd happy, with the aggressive bratty electro of “Loco Ono” and “Gnar,” a booming collaboration with New Zealand drum n’ bass duo The Upbeats, fulfilling that role in particularly explosive style.
But it’s the curveballs which prove to be Noise vs. Beauty’s biggest strengths, whether it’s the U2-esque reverb-laden guitars and ethereal tones of W. Darling on the record’s most obvious potential hit, “You & Me,” or the sweet burst of trip-hop which interrupts “Now,” an otherwise chaotic fusion of trap synths, clattering percussion and Baltimore MC Rye Rye’s sassy lyrical flow. Elsewhere, the warped and woozy G-funk of “Don’t Hate The 808,” the acid-house/hip-hop call-to-arms of “Noise” and the 8-bit bleeps and West Coast swagger of “Lost In The Crowd” prove that few can meld together rap and electro in such a seamless manner.
Noise vs. Beauty isn’t quite as evenly matched as its title suggests, but it’s still another enjoyable thrill ride which should certainly help maintain Bassnectar’s boundary-pushing reputation.