I think one of the most interesting things an electronic artist can do is create a beat that makes you say, “there is no way they could possibly figure out a way to fit vocals over that.” While listening to albums such as Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective I have oftentimes expressed this sentiment while sitting in awe of the artists ability to craft songs around seemingly atonal noise. Many of the tracks on Radiohead’s Amnesiac also fall into this realm of awe inspiring vocal wizardry. Working under the moniker Baths, Will Wiesenfeld has created Obsidian, a record of electronics driven songs with a touch of real instrumentation. It is a dark album, meant to be played on a fast paced, drug sniffing, big city night, and while it’s beats are not always necessarily complicated, Wiesenfeld deftly enters his voice into the conversation of neon funk, blocky synth, and video game noise that is the life blood of the record.
The album itself begins with “Worsening,” a track that most definitely stands as the thesis of the record. It has a stuttering beat that pops and sputters before erupting into a chorus of clinking metallic percussion and tribal vocals, and within this swirl of sound Will Wiesenfeld sings about dying and God. His voice is reedy and thin, not necessarily as strong as the sweeping falsetto of Thom Yorke, or woozy Beach Boy bray of Panda Bear, but fitting for the musical accompaniment. As the track comes to and end, one would not be wrong in thinking that perhaps Obsidian will consist solely of songs much like this, heavy on the atmosphere, but not danceable beats. However, I was pleasantly surprised when track two, “Miasma Sky” began. It not only has a throbbing thump that steadily moves forward, but also contains one of the most ear-wormy synthesizer lines that I have recently encountered. Wiesenfeld begins Obsidian on a strong note, and the record only grows further after this early electrifying tandem.
Elsewhere on the album there is even more icy electric sound to be found, and Baths continues to navigate the glitchy beats with aplomb. A song such as “Incompatible” is compelling because of it’s strange noises, and even stranger lyrical content. Wiesenfeld sings about sharing a toilet seat with a new boyfriend, and then asks him to “nurse this erection back to full health.” It is an interesting sexual innuendo to introduce, but executed expertly. Later on “No Past Lives,” a personal favorite, Baths uses a staccato piano line to introduce a hard-hitting bass beat. The song threatens to spiral out of control several times, but is saved from total collapse by the repeated pattern of natural piano noise. There are layers upon layers of sound to be unearthed here, and some of the fun of listening to Obsidian is derived from discovering new instruments within tracks that may have gone unheard on previous listens.
In the end, Baths has birthed an album of electronic pop that could be played in your bedroom, or during a nighttime stroll through crowded city streets. Allow the musical intricacies of Obsidian to cascade over your eardrums, and give yourself time to absorb its dark majesty.