Nobody knew how it got there, where it came from or why it showed up, but one day a weird and mysterious planet appeared in the sky over Earth and nothing was ever the same. At first, people panicked. A state of emergency was declared, and citizens fled even though they had nowhere to really hide. But then a curious thing happened: they began to feel drawn towards this strange planet. There was some sort of magnetism between the two worlds, as if they were being pulled towards one another until inevitably colliding and becoming one.
No, this isn't the opening to this summer's next big blockbuster or bestselling sci-fi novel, but actually the premise of producer Baauer's sophomore album, PLANET'S MAD. The followup to 2016's debut, Aa, which featured the likes of Pusha T, M.I.A., G-Dragon and Rustie, Baauer's latest full-length effort is a bit of a departure from the multi-platinum artist's usual fare.
Taking inspiration from the 2000s-era arena electro of artists like Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and Basement Jaxx, the album sees Baauer moving away from big name collaborations and instead exploring the full breadth of his own production style. From the bone-rattling warehouse techno thumper "HOT44" to the ravey neon-injected breaks of "AETHER," PLANET'S MAD is an eclectic mix of genres all deftly executed in Baauer's hands.
"Originally I was like, let's make another album, let's get some features going, but then along the way through some choices, on purpose and out of my control it more, it became a project about [building] my own story," Baauer recalls, explaining that by standing on his own for this record he was essentially taking a huge risk. "If this is trash then you know, my music is trash."
But what is even more noteworthy than the sonic risk-taking is that at its heart, PLANET'S MAD is a concept album that centers around an extensive amount of world building done by Baauer. The product of going down countless YouTube rabbit holes about rogue planets and an affinity for the model-making aspects of the popular table game Warhammer, the extensive world behind PLANET'S MAD takes inspiration from a variety of sci-fi classics like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Fifth Element and Solaris — but with less of an emphasis on a concrete narrative and more on environmental storytelling.
Created in close collaboration with Rick Farin, Claire Cochran and Nick Vernet's 3D studio, Actual Objects, the visual world of PLANET'S MAD primarily unfolds through the album's accompanying full length film that builds on the previously released music videos for "AETHER," "REACHUPDONTSTOP" and the title track. Featuring fantastical landscapes, alien dance breaks and a surprise appearance from Eric Warheim, Baauer uses the movie not as a way to piece together a loose storyline but rather showcase the world he's built in a series of vibrant, sometimes dizzying snapshots — giving us a glimpse of the strange creatures that make up this strange planet and the environments they inhabit.
It's an ambitious undertaking for any artist to create such a detailed world for their music and at a scale that is practically unheard of in the popular dance music world, but Baauer cites Porter Robinson's landmark debut album, Worlds, as being a major influence. "He created a whole community around it, transporting them to this world he made, and I thought that that was so cool."
While understanding all of the little bits of lore may not be a prerequisite for enjoying the album, it does make the process all the more rewarding for those that seek it out. Whether it be through piecing together the tracklist via the detailed topographical map of the world or discovering that each alien species that inhabits the planet is named after a famous French philosopher, there are Easter eggs scattered throughout the far corners of PLANET'S MAD. Capitalizing on the time he would otherwise have spent touring and promoting the record, Baauer has instead channeled his energy into fleshing it out into a richly detailed and all encompassing world that would likely never have fully materialized if it weren't for the unique circumstances of our current moment in time.
In lieu of doing a traditional interview, we asked Baauer to help us get to know the wild cast of characters from PLANET'S MAD a little bit better. What we got was an in-depth field guide to every alien that inhabits this strange planet, complete with what song they appear on, their native habitats and which one's never been kissed.
The Aliens of 'PLANET'S MAD'
Native Habitat: Rocky Mountain Tops
Appears On: AETHER
Key Traits: Great shuffler, another set of small arms, 1990s Kate Moss hips
Imagery Courtesy of Baauer/LuckyMe Records