Mesmerizing the Ultra – Bassnectar
DJ Lorin Ashton, better known as Bassnectar, is a man who understands that the most interesting place to be in not in the center, but on the edge. And that the music which truly captivates mind, soul and ass must always be working, lest it tilt too far in favor of one sense and neglect the others. Getting people to bob their heads is the easy part. Surprising them without losing their interest (and their groove) is a bit more labor-intensive. Especially with electronic music, a realm in which many DJs/artists seem afraid of straying too far from the style they are working in for fear of clearing the dance floor. Trance goes over here, house back there, and jungle… you can go down in the basement.
This has a lot to do with why Mesmerizing the Ultra, Bassnectar’s first release with major distribution, is so refreshing, and only improves with repeat listens. True to his name, Bassnectar crams his disc with both the proverbial dirty beats and ethereal, searching melodies. Like gravity and wind, his tracks keep you grounded but always moving.
This is by no means a peak-hour set, however. If you’re looking for another numbing untz-untz-untz collection to put on as background music for the next all-nighter, then Mesmerizing the Ultra is not the disc for you. That said, MtU is still unquestionably a party disc. Drawing primarily on hip-hop, breaks, drum-n-bass and down-tempo for his distinctive beats, Bassnectar’s tracks give the listener suggestions for dancing rather than a rigid framework within which to groove. From the jungle-ragga of “IDB” (with vocals from Sayr), to the Sound Tribe Sector 9 remix of “Some Sing” to the ambient-trance/hip-hop of “Leprechauns Arise,” the disc dishes out track after track of intelligent dance music. Even the most obvious club’ track, “Everybody,” with its banal lyrics ("I want everybody in the house…to say ‘Ho-ohh!!!’") avoids being cheesy by keeping the musical emphasis on the equilibrium of mind/soul/body, rather than the fleeting, one-dimensional fist-pumping excitement that you get with far too much club music.
In addition to being a high-caliber writer/producer of electronic music, Bassnectar is also a thoughtful & gracious fellow. Wanting to reward “anyone who might be discovering these sounds for the first time,” he was able to convince Organic Music and Amorphous Music to include a bonus disc of his previous release, Diverse Systems of Throb, without any change in the price-tag. To put it another way, the dude is a hippie. Bassnectar found his way into the jamband scene through Elastic Mystic, a project with String Cheese Incident’s Michael Kang. Since then, he has appeared multiple times at the Cheese’s Horning’s Hideout festival and just recently took part in Xingolati and Jamcruise 4. With any luck, we’ll be seeing more of him at a late-night festival tent some time this summer.