Baths - Obsidian

Dark and distressing but ultimately compelling.

Label: Anticon

Rating: 7

‘Obsidian’, Will Wiesenfeld’s second album of experimental pop as Baths, is a distinctly bleak affair. It was borne of a degree of personal trauma as he recovered from illness following a long tour in support of well-regarded debut ‘Cerulean’; the songs here are curious pieces, sounding both joyous and desperately sad.

The trauma of illness and the recovery period allowed Wiesenfeld more scope and time to progress Baths’ sound beyond the shiny, upbeat electronic pop of his debut and take it to an altogether stranger and more warped place. It’s more layered and defined. Electronic beats remain but with added piano to give it a richer sound.

But the real progression here is in Wiesenfeld as a songwriter. He’s dealing with dark themes and challenging subjects. There’s a feeling of self-loathing running throughout the album. It’s immediately present in the questioning lament of ‘Worsening’ where he sings: “Where is god when you hate him most?”

Sex and carnal desires, or more pertinently a lack of desire, are regular lyrical themes. The darkly compelling ‘Incompatible’ is particularly heartbreaking. Here, over a repetitive humming beat, he paints a scenario of an unloving relationship.“ I’m scared of how little I care for you.” It’s incredibly powerful stuff.

Elsewhere, ‘No Eyes’ details a seedy encounter, describing the process of casual sex in fittingly cold and desperate terms. There’s no room for love or affection. Instead, the lyric states: “It is only a matter of come and fuck me; it is only a matter of my fix.”

Much of the album is enlivened by some quite lovely fluttering melodies that feature Wiesenfeld’s endearingly wobbly, cracked falsetto foregrounded as never before. There are moments, however, where they sound disappointingly subdued. At times, the music becomes ever so slightly cluttered as a wealth of ideas converges.

Much of the best art is born out of challenging situations. Will Wiesenfeld’s illness seems to have sparked him into progressing as both a songwriter and a producer. Baths’ second album is dark and distressing but ultimately compelling. It’s clear that this is the work of a fascinatingly subversive mind.