Baths’ third album – one of the most grotesquely beautiful albums of the year

BathsFOLLOWING the release of his successful 2010 debut album, Cerulean, L.A.-born electronic artist Baths has returned to deliver one of the most grotesquely beautiful albums of the year.

Obsidian is an ambitious cocktail, dealing with life-threatening struggles and the hope for artistic recognition. Many strange and wonderful contradictions are expressed through the lyrics and music, which make for an emotional piece of art.

Will Wiesenfeld’s one-man-band has had a very mixed couple of years. His 2010 album, Cerulean, was met with positive reviews after completing it in just two months (in his bedroom): even making it in The AV Club’s top 30 albums of 2010. Sadly though, a year later he was diagnosed with E. coli, where he would spend weeks “just waking up and not moving”. Live performances were also becoming less of an enjoyment for the 24 year old;  he was “playing songs that [he] actually hated”.

As you begin to understand Wiesenfeld through his interviews, it becomes much clearer, if not obvious, where the inspiration for this album comes from.

His past use of electronic pop and lo-fi sounds, very similar to The Postal Service, have re-emerged in the new album. Electro-pop is now fused with a darker tone, as if met with some of Radiohead’s softer piano tracks (Pyramid Song or Videotape, for example). That is not to say nothing has changed; the added guitar overtones and a vastly improved drum beat make for an unpredictable sound. The sudden change from the early-dubstep sounding No Eyes, which relies on a repetitive synth rhythm and makes use of MPDs, is then met with the next track, Phaedra, which races in with its fast bass drums accompanied by a clean piano and some light Christmas bells. This complexity is incredibly brutal; the listener knows that the next song is going to be riddled with pessimism and entangled bleakness (in truth, it does), but it is not painfully obvious, it is delivered with imagination and dignity.

baths 2The lyrics themselves are unimaginably dark, detailing the young musician’s portrayal of pain and suffering. On the playful Miasma Sky, Wiesenfeld unnervingly asks ‘Are you maybe here to hurt myself?’ over the electro rhythm. On the propulsive Obituary, he murmurs, ‘Death pirouettes through the flicker of the wick and makes you sick’. The lyrics are expressed in certain sins and demons, detailing sexual fantasises, as found in Ironworks, relationships in Incompatible, and certain aspects of apathy in Ossuary.

As the lyrics get darker, his voice seems to quaver and shine through. The use of choral falsetto layers and an array of accompanied echoes create a complex environment with an incredible atmosphere. A sense of beauty and passion can be experienced from the lyrics, voice, and musical accompaniment.

Every track on Obsidian seems to fall prey to two opposite layers which have been fused together; one, the bounce of the rhythmic dance synth and the tight drum beats, and the other, the grey echoes of the bass and melancholy piano. Both are incredibly different, yet with Wiesenfeld’s voice and lyrics, they merge to create a powerful picture. Both continuously struggle with each other, but it is this struggle which creates the complex purpose and emotion of such a talented, mature artist.