Album Review: Baths – Obsidian




Baths played coy on Cerulean. The 2010 debut from Will Wiesenfeld was damp with feeling, but hid many of its lyrics inside messy beats and tangled glitches. On his sophomore release, Wiesenfeld tosses the shields and opens up. Like the name states, Obsidian is darker than Cerulean, but it’s also more cathartic. Working Xiu Xiu-style confessionals into Active Child ornamentation, Wiesenfeld asks a few of the more persistent questions, like: Will I get to be loved before I have to die?

“Incompatible” follows up on the yearning of songs like “Plea”, painting a languishing relationship in vivid detail. “First boyfriend/ You live in my house and we share a toilet seat,” Wiesenfeld sings, as if that’s the height of their intimacy. At the chorus, he elevates the sad place he’s stuck in to an image that’s almost mythological. ”Failed your maiden voyage,” he repeats. This isn’t just a flaccid relationship — it’s a ship that’s sprung holes in a storm.

There’s comfort in mapping everyday human hurt to myth. On “Phaedra”, Wiesenfeld wrestles with mortality through a filter of Greek tragedy. He justifies his grandiose movements with references to artists that are practically myths of emotional excess. ”No Eyes” nods to Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” in its beat and its sexual angst, while “Ossuary” buzzes with a Cure bass line. Robert Smith would get away with a song called “Ossuary” — Wiesenfeld invokes him to do the same.

Not every risk lands. “No Past Lives” alternates phrases of flat electric piano with smoldering industrial hum to awkward effect, and the maudlin strings on “Ironworks” only make phrases like “tempestuous foreplay” grate harder. But Obsidian is a brave and necessary record that builds on Baths’ glitchy poignance. ”It takes a lot of courage to go out there and radiate your essence,” quotes Cerulean‘s “Maximalist”. On Obsidian, Baths finds that courage.

Essential Tracks: “Incompatible”, “Phaedra”

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