Pleasing but Lacking
Bassnectar’s twelfth album Unlimited is both a triumph and a failure in equal parts. To release a 15-track album in this day and age is quite rare and for all fifteen cuts to feel like they belong in the album is even less common. However, Unlimited lacks that Bassnectar uniqueness that winds throughout his most interesting pieces. It has limitations. Because he produces so much music (twelve albums is nothing to scoff at), it comes as no surprise that some of his output will fall at just par. We have come to identify Bassnectar as one of the forerunners in dance music today, but even a prolific musician cannot be expected to constantly produce surprising, innovative music.
That does not mean that the tracks are not good. Bassnectar is an extremely talented musician. The production aspects of this album are extremely interesting and some of its songs make the listener move, even before they realize they are. The album begins strongly with “Reaching Out.” For the first half of the track, it feels as if the song is truly reaching out – the album art and synth intro conjure the image of an astronaut attempting reentry into a space station. It’s very fitting and quite the beginning to what becomes a musical journey.
Unfortunately, the tracks that feature other artists, like “TKO ft. Rye Rye & Zion I” aren’t as collaborative as one would wish. They sound like amped-up hip hop tracks, which would be entirely acceptable from almost anyone but Bassnectar. It’s our expectation of him that keeps the listener from enjoying them fully. There is not much about this track (or “Mind Tricks ft. Lafa Taylor”) that betrays Bassnectar’s brilliance. They are well-suited to a club environment, but a straight listen will reveal musical shortcomings that are difficult to ignore.
His solo-artist tracks, like “Unlimited Combinations,” are very fun to listen to. Here we are treated to the full Bassnectar experience. The chime-like, arpeggiating synth runs through the intro and the percussion, when it begins, builds to a dance-y, deep roar. This is what we want from Bassnectar; cuts in which we can hear him. Therefore, it is clear that “Zodgilla,” the trap-y, epic climax of the album is Unlimited‘s crowning glory. It has all the elements that make a Bassnectar track great; it’s deeply dance-oriented, it has aspects of trap and house music and its samples are, honestly, out of this world. Here, the album art really suits the music and it’s extremely refreshing to witness. “Zodgilla” is a triumph and the most exciting track on this record.
Though this album is extremely fun to listen to, there is not much about it that Bassnectar has not already covered. Because of his hefty discography and innovative mind, we have come to expect great things from him and many of the tracks in Unlimited simply do not measure up. A few of them are great, like “Unlimited Combinations,” “Reaching Out,” “Zodgilla” and the brief “Inspire The Empathetic,” which bring us through Bassnectar’s entire production process.