The origins of Bassnectar’s Noise vs Beauty are surprisingly indie; the entire album is written through non-electronic means – guitar, drums, piano and even crude humming. Bassnectar stated that the original version of Noise vs Beauty is almost a reverse copy – a secret weird indie twin – and like all clandestine experiments, the creator wishes to hide it away. From this indie rock creation, over fifty collaborators added their creative forces to give Noise vs Beauty life. These fifty collaborations spawned thirty finished songs, which were cut to a final track list of fifteen. Busta Rhymes and Azealia Banks are some of the well known names that collaborated with Bassnectar who are conspicuously absent from the final track list, in his typical fashion of mainstream music dissent. Bassnectar states on his website that this album was a “labor of love”, and the process of creating Noise vs Beauty was intense and exhaustive. This is an album created from the inside out, starting with the barest bones and fleshed out layer by layer. The finished result is an amalgamation of hip hop, dance and dubstep that sounds like bass music that goes beyond a dudebro’s neon beer pong tourney. What more could you expect from Lorin Ashton, the mastermind behind Bassnectar. Lorin created Noise vs Beauty during his first hiatus away from touring ten months out of the year.
It is undeniable – “bassheads”, the cult like Bassnectar fandom, will love Noise vs Beauty. But to the massive following who flock to Bassnectar shows, devouring everything with Bassnectar’s name is easy. Lorin has always focused on the live aspect of his craft – he often references philosopher Hannah Arendt – whose philosophy includes the idea of a polis, a gathering of people bonded together by thoughts and ideas. The inspiration behind the entire concept of Bassnectar is the “magnetic draw of large crowds of people”, and the crowds these shows pull is immense. The tracks on Noise vs Beauty are definitely designed to pulsate through a crowd, and this can at times cause a feeling of something missing, a wavelength that just isn’t present when listening to static recordings.
Lorin recalls his first encounter with the sensation of heavy bass – an intense earthquake that shook his hometown in elementary school. This brush with the sheer force of nature was the first experience in a lifetime love affair with bass music. Noise vs Beauty, however, does not evoke the sense of seismic activity, it is softer, more melodic with random bursts of energy. Even the trap infused track “Noise” and “Don’t hate the 808” are pretty chill. And towards the lighter spectrum are tracks like “You & Me”, a sugary sweet number that is sure to be the summer anthem for festival loving hippie couples coast to coast. A favorite is “Flash Back”, one of the few tracks with a postdubstep/darker tone. Just like the iconic flower/insect symbol of Bassnectar’s music, the bassdrop, the essence of Noise vs. Beauty is duality. Noise vs Beauty does live up to the noise part – one of the standout tracks “Gnar”, a track that could sound like torture to a non-bass/dubstep lover (or tolerator). But there’s a sort of tranquility in cacophony, and with an album title like Noise vs Beauty, that’s kind of the point.
However, listening to Noise vs Beauty in its natural environment definitely influenced my initial listening of the album. Through sheer dumb luck, a ticket to Bassnectar at the revered Red Rocks Amphitheatre randomly made its way to me. I was able to witness Bassnectar firsthand, the energy behind his live set and the disturbingly talented W.Darling, who provides the vocals on “You & Me”. An outsider looking in can sense the community of fans which gives Bassnectar life, and although it is not everyone’s scene, even Lorin himself says “who can deny 30,000 people having the time of their lives?” For fans of any kind of bass oriented electronic music, Noise vs Beauty is a solid album with a few gems. For anyone who isn’t a fan of electronic music, stay away or attend a Bassnectar show to at least have a good time. But hurry, the opportunity might not be around forever, when asked what he wants to be doing in a few years, Lorin responds, “vanish into the mist”.