Monday, December 2, 2013

Baths: Obsidian (2013)



Well this is just so darned purtee, y'all. It's never purtier or moodier or sillier than its final track, "Inter," a delicate and swoony slice of desperately expressive frivolity -- wordless cooing defines it -- that will either give you enough laughs to last the rest of the week or will sort of endear itself to you. As usual, Will Wiesenfeld knows his place -- and he knows his audience well enough now that, in its small fashion, record number two is kind of masterful.

"Inter" is merely the apex of what these frilly, cushy songs are driving at. They're catchy at times but usually are subservient to Wiesenfeld's idea of beauty. Several critics talk about this being darker than his first record, Cerulean, but that is a matter of inching degrees at best. He sings about God and failure, and his songs are a little better defined now, but Obsidian is marked more than anything by how pleasant it is, and how ferociously vital and well-crafted it obviously is underneath its immediate appeal. "Phaeda" and "No Past Lives," just to touch the tip of the iceberg, are immaculate and layered productions -- even with the most superficial instant appreciation of them, one never suspects they lack substance or passion. That's something a lot of bedroom pop folks from Wiesenfeld's generation miss.

I sampled Baths' first record a couple of years ago but put it away without comment. Listening quickly again before writing this, I think without question that Obsidian is a far more interesting album. Its predecessor seemed unprofessional and insubstantial by comparison, and while a certain scrappiness may have been important for some of his fans, Wiesenfeld is much more at home in this environment. With an infinite sonic palette and an irresistible taste for the sumptuous, he's able to put together the rare modern album that boasts both subtlety and ornate heaviness. Great for zoning, not for sleeping.

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