Weekend Rewind: Listen to Bassnectar’s debut album from 2001
This weekend, Americans will celebrate their independence from Great Britain, while Britons celebrate or commiserate their newfound independence from the European Union. Among the many cultural phenomena that America has imported (and expounded upon) from their previous motherland is the genre of dubstep. When people think of the American dubstep that evolved from — or perverted, depending on the eye of the beholder — the subdued bass lines of Skream et al., Bassnectar is one of the genre’s most progenitive and influential artists.
However, any who categorize Lorin Ashton as simply being a dubstep producer is reductive to the diversity of his repertoire and dismissive of the expansive timeline of his work. After all, Skream released “Midnight Request Line,” which many consider to be dubstep’s seminal track, in 2006 — five years after the release of Bassnectar’s debut album, Freakbeat for the Beatfreaks.
Now fifteen years old, Freakbeat for the Beatfreaks is often considered to be a mixtape, rather than an official studio album. Just like any Bassnectar offering, the collection contains more content than most artists’ LPs. Containing 15 tracks, each cut is entitled numerically, according to its order in the album.
Though Bassnectar’s style is fundamentally amorphous, there are a number of tropes within Freakbeat that still stand true to Ashton’s current style, a testament to the artist’s reliability given the amount of musical movements that have transpired since 2001, as well as the concurrent advancements in music production technologies.
Stylistically fluid throughout, Freakbeat’s core revolves around complex breakbeat percussion, unique sample manipulation, and a balance of raw aggression and occasions of soothing synthesis (though the former of these traits is far more present). In fundamentally Bassnectar fashion, “1” begins with the robotic instruction, “This should be played at high volume,” perhaps an homage to the David Bowie’s prompt for Ziggy Stardust to be played at “Maximum Volume.”
The early stages of Bassnectar’s stylistic development are apparent in Freakbeat, wherein he derives from an expansive range of influences (as opposed to later releases like his most recent LP, Unlimited, which sees Ashton derive from his own style). The presences of Bhangra and breaks are ubiquitous, while tracks like “6” even seem to draw some inspiration from techno.
It’s evident that Bassnectar has evolved substantially since Freakbeat, just as electronic music and its surrounding communities and technologies have. But delving this deeply into Bassnectar’s past shows that, while Bassnectar’s music has substantially changed, his inspirations and ambitions were as amorphous in 2001 as they are in 2016.