Album Review: Baths—“Obsidian”

By Marko Cindric, Feature Photo by Hanna Dryland

Los Angeles native Will Wiesenfeld’s Obsidian is the third and latest release under the bedroom producer’s Baths moniker, heralding a triumphant evolution in sound since the 2010 release of his widely successful debut album, Cerulean—and all the while unmistakably possessing the signature qualities of a Baths album.

Attributing a recent skirmish with E. coli as one of the album’s chief influences, Wiesenfeld’s beat-centric instrumentation and balladic lyricism have taken an evident turn to the dark side with this release. “Tall rock shelf, are you maybe here to help me hurt myself?” he sings on the album’s lead single, “Miasma Sky.” The track has a powerful emotive quality to it (not uncommon to Baths records), yet at the same time it boasts a surprisingly high degree of danceability; this unexpected balance is found throughout Obsidian, most prominent on songs like “No Eyes” and “Earth Death”—the latter of which could practically be labelled industrial pop, if such a combination even exists.

"Obsidian" by Baths

“Obsidian” by Baths

Obsidian continues in a similar direction to that of Baths’ sophomore album, Pop Music / False B-Sides, insofar as it features much heavier implementation of synthesized sounds and melody-focused songwriting. Listeners seeking the more “traditional” Baths sound—erratic side-chaining and dominant rhythmic elements weaving through organic live instrumentation—will enjoy tracks like “Worsening,” “Ironworks,” and “Incompatible.” Other tracks, such as the fast-paced “Ossuary,” showcase Wiesenfeld’s blooming fondness for foregrounded, rapid-trigger synth basses, as well as spacious electronic soundscapes. Of course, continuing the trend of his earlier releases, Obsidian serves as an excellent sampling of Wiesenfeld’s formidable vocal strength, as well as his unique and meticulous production aesthetic.

Arriving nearly two years to the day after the release of Pop Music / False B-Sides, Baths’ latest effort is a thoroughly enjoyable and cohesive record from end to end, and fans who have been eagerly awaiting its arrival will not be disappointed. Wiesenfeld’s desired sound becomes visibly more refined, more clearly translated from vision to record, across the span of his releases, and Obsidian just might be his strongest yet.

 

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