I’m not really familiar with Baths. The name has been around the music world for years and is one of those that has just grown so big that it seemed like I had already missed the introduction into his world. The Woodland Hill native (Real name: Will Wiesenfeld.) is known for his experimental take on electronic music that is a combination of influences from glitch to IDM to folk to classical music. His recently released Obsidian is a serious effort to catapult him into the realm of big name Los Angeles artists because it is receiving incredible love from all over, namely the toppest of top honors from Pitchfork. The album is an incredibly moody release that balances aggressive electronics with delicate, almost dainty soundscapes. It sounds like a fucked up Sufjan Stevens album fused with intense sexual energy and anti-pop approachability.
Obsidian starts off with the darkly friendly “Worsening,” which–if you were as unfamiliar to Baths as I was–you find that the sound is like all these folksy, cool, soft-rock indie singers voices placed inside of a cathode ray tube. “Miasma Sky” and “No Eyes” follow suit in sound and are the albums biggest stand outs as they are such confident, aggressive songs. “Miasma” is like a dance version of “Worsening” that turn Wiesenfeld’s vocals into a more sweet, vulnerable, and angelic offering. This is placed atop of a prickly, beeping , violin complimented soundtrack. “No Eyes” is the best production on the album because of its simplicity and it builds to a confrontational climax in arrangement and lyrics: by the end of the song, he is playfully sing growling the lyrics, “Come and fuck me.” This will sound odd because their sounds are so different but he hits Antony Hegarty levels of sophistication here.
Transitioning into the more lighter end of the album are songs like “Incompatible,” “Phaedra,” and “No Past Lives.” The first has a classic feel to it, which is a theme in his work: there is an element of string or piano added into the base that is then deconstructed into a fucked up post-sound bite. Both “Phaedra” and “No Past Lives” are in both the dark and light worlds Baths creates, while the latter plays up intese sexual imagery with lyrics like “rectal wall of agony.” (That could also be an allusion to dealing with an e.coli illness, too. That’s less romantic to think about, though.)
On the soft side of Obsidian, Baths is able to infuse so much sensitivity into his rough electronic base. These tracks show off his incredible technical skill in classical music even more. “Ironworks” is the most fragile with its piano and woody percussion, evoking that of wandering through a spacey field. The song is the easiest entry into Baths and will be what non-electronic music fans cling to: it crosses into pretty pop territory and is a lovely song. “Ossuary” is less delicate and–like “Ironworks”–places you in another world (this one being a butterfly house full of activity).
The albums closing two songs sum up all the themes of the album. “Earth Dearth” is the darkest, most gothic of the songs in terms of the sound of the production–Wiesenfeld’s soft voice is almost smothered in the confrontational percussion. That’s the point, though. “Inter” is the final song and it is the dreamy ending that the album deserves. There is a choral element in its vocal layering, adorable guitars, and a stable, consistent drum cadence. Listening to Obsidian, you feel like you and Baths went on an up and down, happy and sad, rough and smooth journey together through his life. The closing feels like a hug, a thank you, for joining him on his journey. It’s a journey you’ll want to reexamine and reinvestigate many times. It’s a curious album that is definitely unrivaled: Obsidian is that dark early Summer album everyone will be talking about.