Straight out of the too-cool-for-school spawning grounds of the burgeoning Los Angeles electronic scene, Nosaj Thing is the latest producer to make a claim to fame in the new “lazer bass” movement. Aptly named for its fusion of swollen hip hop rhythms and glitchy electronic embellishment, this new genre has produced several indie heavy-hitters, such as Flying Lotus and Lazer Sword.
Nosaj Thing is the brainchild project of 22-year-old Jason Chung, a longtime Los Angeles producer who first became famous from his DJ sets at the nightclub Low End Theory and his remixes of HEALTH and Flying Lotus. The 12-track debut album Drift marks his graduation into the world of original composition. His sharp attention to detail and relentless DIY attitude have made him an established figure in what has become one of the hottest music scenes ever to emerge from the California area. Similar in nature to dubstep or glitch music, this new genre eludes most umbrella terms because it is flexible and ever-changing. Despite this, what is commonly known as “lazer bass” has become a staple at high-flying nightclubs and is regularly featured by prominent forward-thinking radio broadcasters such as Mary Anne Hobbs.
The elegant Drift furthers Nosaj Thing’s established credibility and breathes new life into a branch of music swamped with mundane, rigid, unimaginative laptop-party dreg. With a smooth, shiny exterior and subtle intricate details this album feels remarkably polished. Despite its obvious computer origins, swooning dynamics and chilling, chopped-up human samples give Drift a remarkably organic, human feel. Advanced, futuristic production has been aplenty ever since the advent of computerized synthesizers, but even for an album created using slick beat software, Drift sounds eerily prophetic. This should come as no surprise, as Jason Chung has always been an innovator in stretching the capabilities of the tools on hand. As a 13-year-old, the young pup tinkered with an ancient computer his dad gave him. He eventually fiddled around enough to transform the near-worthless parts into a primitive beat machine. Thus, a new artist was born.
Chung has come a long way, paving new ground with his novel rhythmic style. His influences range from the Beastie Boys to classical musicians like Antonio Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach, who is given a dedication in the track “1685/Bach.” As Chung has matured, it is evident that his work has become darker. Every song on this album screams splendor. Not in the traditional manner of jubilance, but in the beauty of quiet solitude, or the raw ache of longing. Although its beats are sharp and crispy, and never muted and flat, it is obvious that every track on Drift celebrates the darker side of human emotion. This deep, atmospheric mood stands strong, from the creepy chimes of intro track “Quest” to the haunting funeral procession chants of “Lords.”
While Drift is no tour-de-force of electro club bangers, there is still enough bounce to make this record dance-friendly. Standouts include the heavy relentless grind of “Coat of Arms,” and the dainty, pinball-arcade skitter of “Light #2.”
Whether its known as “lazer bass” or “turbo crunk,” regardless of such trifle labels, Nosaj Thing stands as a true innovator of this new movement. His slick production and meticulous attention to detail show promise of future mastery, and stand as evidence of his uniqueness. Not “unique” as in a broad sweeping generalization, but “unique” as in the fact that sample for sample, beat for beat, there are few who can match what he does.