The beats of electronic music pioneer Bassnectar (neé Lorin Ashton) have never easily been characterized. From his dusty beginnings at Burning Man to his current status as major festival headliner, the San Francisco-based producer has remained just inches underground, continually pushing the amorphous boundaries of bass music. Originally planned as an EP, Vava Voom places more emphasis on Bassnectar’s diverse techniques in production than it does at creating a bridge across the extended full-length release.
The album’s lead single, and title track, is Bassnectar’s closest encounter to the light of commercial appeal. Featuring Lupe Fiasco, Bassnectar contours the rapper’s choruses with layers of playful synth scales and handclap samples. Two minutes in, he uses the vocal “boom” to shift the track into a massive hyper-bass track. In classic Bassnectar fashion, there rests an odd sample amidst the bass quake: a cuckoo clock.
The hip-hop inspiration remains dense on the opening tracks. On the downtempo glitch banger “Empathy”, an uncredited vocalist proclaims, “To a higher zone, you are not alone/I know no perimeters, frequencies no limiters,” capturing the essence of the Bassnectar culture. The following track, “Ugly (ft. Amp Live)”, opens with a multi-tenor percussive pattern, then drops into an aggressive drumstep anthem. “Ping Pong” recalls earlier tracks like, say, “Agent Squish” off 2005’s Mesmerizing The Ultra, namely for composing a techno-based track off an eccentric sample. Though, he does keep things timely, especially on “What”, which finds him bridging dub with dubstep, seguing that into electro, and those lasers are a nice touch, too.
Trailing “Pennywise Tribute”, a remix of “Bro Hymn” that will start mosh pits live but does little for the album, are three tracks that showcase the ethereal side of Bassnectar. “Laughter Crescendo [2012 Version],” “Butterfly (ft. Mimi Page)”, and “Nothing Has Been Broken (ft. Tinia Malia)” are beautiful examples of hypnotic bass music, comprised of lush female vocals, slow-churning bass, and subtle piano arrangements.
Vava Voom is saturated with brilliant bass anthems, but fails to develop into a dedicated full-length. The release may have been best left as a six-track EP, with a companion EP focusing on the vibe established during Vava Voom‘s close.
Essential Tracks: “Empathy”, “Ping Pong”, and “Butterfly”