If there’s a problem with Lorin Ashton A.K.A. Bassnectar releasing what he calls a “mixtape” instead of an album, it’s that his actual albums have already set the bar pretty high.
It’s by no accident that he’s amassed a greater following than almost any other bass music artist in the world, after all. His layered and borderline metaphysical style of electronic music has found its way to his devoted fan base in the form of dozens of albums since his 2001 debut, each of which he finely tunes to a neurotic extent. As such, on the off occasion that he breaks the pattern to put together what amounts to a hobby album of sorts, he must expect some measure of disapproval from fans.
And to be fair, it seems that he did. In a Rolling Stone interview that came out around the time he released the first five songs of Into The Sun, Ashton expressed a desire to piece the effort together without needing to make all its parts work together as a definitive unit. To that end, he certainly made a conscious effort to manage expectations – but only kind of, because what he usually releases as mixtapes come across as more cohesive works than this one.
That’s not to say that it didn’t have a strong start, though. Into The Sun kicks off with Ashton’s collaboration with Levitate, “Chasing Heaven,” a characteristically complex arrangement that showcases his signature blend of world music, glitch-hop and dubstep. The high notes pierce through the primal, root chakra-opening reverberations in a way that conveys some kind of cosmic metaphor through the majesty of music.
…And what a time for Ashton to decide to kill the mood by putting the weakest song next. Let me make it clear that I don’t find “No Way” by British rock band The Naked and Famous to be a bad song. It’s somewhat dated and bland by my standards, but it’s feasible that enough people could like it for it to place well on a few charts. The Bassnectar remix, on the other hand, was mediocre at best. He only made slight changes, and up against a nearly two-decade body of work that all sounds distinctly like him, the track simply fails to impress.
Fittingly, the album’s title track is its strongest. Its highs and lows swirl around one another in a foreign-sounding scale, painting the soundscape in vivid colors against the backdrop of an otherwise rudimentary dubstep beat. This is the Bassnectar we know and love, the brooding oddball whose sagelike command of sound design transformed him into a larger-than-life pop culture icon in an era during which he had more competition than ever.
“Speakerbox” ft. Lafa Taylor takes a turn for the trappy, as did his Louis Futon collaboration, “Sideways” ft. Zion I. His track with Gnar Gnar, “Generate,” and his Luzcid collaboration, “Science Fiction,” are tied for hardest bass drop – a distinction which most contemporary bass music fans would find important while weeding through the album.
Following a well-updated rework of “Blow,” a piece of nostalgia from Ashton’s 2005 album Mesmerizing The Ultra, is his remix of “Somarfågal” by Wintergatan, a Swedish experimental metal band. As with his “No Way” remix, he doesn’t do a great deal to make the song his own, but I have to be thankful that he included it anyways simply because I wouldn’t have known about this fascinating band otherwise. Really, everyone should check them out.
The tracks that close out the album – “Breathing,” “Dubuasca” and “Enter the Chamber” – are more Mesmerizing the Ultra reworks, ending the album on a decent yet ultimately anticlimactic note.
In short, Into The Sun by Bassnectar could have been achieved through the kind of sporadic releases expected of contemporary musicians as it didn’t measure up to the standards set by his previous discography. The amount of filler on the album ultimately ended up diluting its essence, and diminishes his otherwise stellar track record of putting out groundbreaking new music on a regular basis. Nonetheless, Ashton’s misses are still slam dunks by the rest of electronic music world’s standards, and with his devotion to his craft I expect this anomaly to be a minor departure from his otherwise profound work as an artist.
Bassnectar's Into The Sun isn't the worst thing we've ever listened to, but we expected a lot more from him. Nonetheless, the album still has quite a few memorable arrangements and brings much-needed exposure to a handful of deserving artists.