Bassnectar is a DJ well known for his prolific releases and closeness to his own following. “Vava Voom”, his ninth LP since 2001, continues to explore the same sounds and themes with an expected familiarity that is quickly becoming predictable. Twisting drum and bass, dubstep and hip-hop into a moray of driving dance music, a style that has spawned a million imitators in the past few years.
The opening and titular track, “Vava Voom”, features the impeccable rapper Lupe Fiasco. A known Bassnectar fan, Lupe’s most recent mixtape heavily features Bassnectar with new vocals from Lupe laid on top, with great results; this track seemed like an obvious choice for the opener and lead single, and it is one of the stronger tracks on the album. Lupe seems a little lost on the track, as the production seems confused as to what sounds to feature, or how to utilize Lupe’s voice to its fullest. His voice works so well with the music, but after two quick verses, he’s left saying “aye” and “vava voom” over and over. This kind of repetition is the closest “Vava Voom” comes to consistency. Similarly, “Ugly” features Amp Live on a verse, but ends up just heavily sampling his voice over and over. Where other tracks fail in the simpler areas, though, the building blocks here are unbelievably solid, an evolving mass of hypnotic sound.
Though most of the album is droning, monotonous drum and bass - “What”, “Do It Like This” and “Empathy” being the biggest offenders - there are a few shining moments of creativity - outside of “Ugly” that help pull the album together. “Nothing Has Been Broken”, featuring Tina Malia, is a blippy, androgynous trip hop exploration that doesn’t quite feel as overstuffed as other songs. “Ping Pong” also stands out, as it somehow spins a match of ping pong into a brutal rapidfire machine gun sample. The track moves away from the literal influence within half a minute and into uncredited, uninspired hip-hop vocals about girls, I guess, ping ponging? All these girls must have such sore taints, from slap slapping them against the ground, and such. He keeps saying “beat on the ground,” or “feet on the ground,” but it just sounds like “beef on the ground,” further grossing me out with the unintentional imagery.
He calls this an album, and it’s 54 minutes long, but some of the later tracks are basically filler. “Laughter Crescendo 2012 Version” is a remix of a forgettable track off the 2005 album “Mesmerizing The Ultra” that fills out the original arrangement without making it any more interesting, though the shattered vocal track, a heavily edited girl’s laughter, isn’t without its charm. Where the original was sparser, with a focus on the vocals, the “2012 Version” fits with the sound of Vava Voom, though the busier sections are a bit muddled. The album closer, “Chronological Outtakes”, is exactly what it sounds like - outtakes, probably ordered… chronologically. Put this shit on your Tumblr or Soundcloud or something - no one wants to hear four minutes of a guy unsuccessfully make a weird noise with his cheeks, or a sample of bad sludgy alternametal from a previous band. It makes the album feel like a cheap EP, the opposite of the glossy production on the first nine tracks. The track immediately preceding it, “Nothing Has Been Broken”, suffers greatly from the thirty seconds of blank space preceding this intrusive, ridiculous sludge bullshit.
Similarly, “Pennywise Tribute”, again, feels weirdly out of place on an album driven by hip-hop and drum & bass, and isn’t just a tribute, but is actually a Pennywise song with the tiniest of Bassnectar bass in the background. It’s a great song, one of the stronger on the album, but only weakens the cohesion of the album, again sounding like a B-sides EP rather than an album with any kind of theme, or even flow. Obviously not every album has to have an overt theme, but tracks that feed into each other more freely would be less jarring, and after six tracks that sound similar, the closing half of the album’s sporadic genre jumping is… off-putting.
That remains the album’s biggest weak point - a lack of any real voice or cohesion. A few songs can be grouped together as obviously similarly influenced, but as a whole the album is a jumbled mess where interesting concepts get drowned out by filler material, droning repetition and radical tone and sound changes.