Welcome to Electronic Playground. In this weekly column, we will cover tech-heavy music that is a large segment of the Alternative/Indie movement of today. In general, these bands do not see the popularity of some "less out there" acts, so do not be discouraged if you haven't heard of them. We will focus on all types of electronic music in a genre that is known for its subcategories.
This week, we thought we would venture out of the synthwave/synthpop/retrowave segment and into another electronic artist whose music intrigues us. As the name would imply, Bassnectar (aka, Lorin Ashton), is a California-native DJ who uses electronic sounds, including monster bass notes, to build the foundation of his tracks. He also is incredible at the "lead" synth sections used in his songs, which really make us compare this music to some of the other artists we talk about here, even if they are different by genre (technically). He's been around since 1996 and has released quite a bit of music throughout the years. Listening to some of the tracks, we get a bit nostalgic, thinking about those days in the driveway with our brand new subwoofers in the car listening to bass-driven tracks. Except unlike the mundane lack of depth to the beats and barely present leads, Bassnectar can blow the truck lid off your car and dazzle you with the depth of field and extreme sounds. The music is still technically dubstep, but Bassnectar tends to be much more refined, in our opinions.
Speakerbox (featuring Ohana Bam, Lafa Taylor)
One claim to fame for this track was its inclusion on The Fate and the Furious Soundtrack, but it truly deserves your attention as more than a supplement to an action movie. There are few musicians can keep up with the sequences in those movies, but Bassnectar has that snarling attitude of a dubstep artist who used to perform heavy metal (true story). The track comes in with short synth blasts as it builds up the melody in the background. This is beautiful execution of one of the genre's most prominent features. When the rhythm finally kicks in, you can't help but bob your head and follow along.
This track is the main reason why this piece is being written. While hanging out in an arcade bar during a conference, I heard Horizons come over the speakers. I had to quickly SoundHound as soon as the melody hit so I could figure out what this music was. I had heard Bassnectar in the past, but either my tastes had shifted or he has just started doing things in later years that my ears really pick up on. Horizons is very building and repetitive, but I don't know how to fully explain it other than to say it's one of the heaviest tracks I've ever felt. You can feel the song no matter what you're listening on and the lead parts are almost reminiscent of something you hear in anime or during a cinderella story basketball movie. You'll know what I'm talking about. This track was a collaborative effort with Dorfex Bos.
Into the Sun
If looking for some lighter affair, check out Into the Sun. The song still has a deep, heavy bass section, but the leads are light and almost sound...enthusiastic. The track uses retro sounding snare fills, which also bring some elements of 80s music into the fold. This song could easily be found as a top radio hit if the charts would be friendlier to instrumental tracks. To see this in even greater examples, check out some of Bassnectar's remixes. "Lights," originally performed by Ellie Goulding, was remixed and the version can be found on Spotify (also below). We are very fond of Ashton's added elements.
If you've heard Bassnectar before and you've taken some time away, check out what he's been releasing lately. Technology has gotten quite a bit better since 1996 and Ashton finds a way to pull everybody in with one track or another.