I remembered liking Cerulean, Baths first release, when it came out back in the day. In fact, it was one of the first electronic albums that I really got into. Minimalist, danceable, and with more glitches then the PS3 version of Skyrim its no wonder I liked it and still listen to it now. Obsidian is those things as well, but in a very different way. If I were writing a review of Cerulean right now there are two words that might not appear at all in that post, or at the very least I wouldn’t use them until the last paragraph. But it’s not, and in Obsidian’s review I am going to use those two words in the first paragraph. Those words are Will Wiesenfeld, the name of the guy behind Baths. There is no getting around it, Wiesenfeld’s latest outing is a personal affair, and while the chasm between his releases is wide, it’s a gap worth jumping with gusto Evel Knievel style.
Despite being comprised of love songs and barely having any words, Baths previous music managed to be incredibly varied in tone. Aminals was cute, Maximalist was optimistic, You’re My Excuse to Travel was sad, and the music underneath was consistently good. And the glitch! Oh the glitch. Glitch was a sign that everything was working just fine. On Obsidian glitch is bad; not that Wiesenfeld forgot how to produce well, but rather he uses glitch as a device to create tension in the songs as opposed to using it as the whole song. Most of the tracks, even those with really cut up drum beats, have at least some non-cut up instrument behind them, whether it be a lone piano or violins and other string instruments. Its different for certain, but the listener gets the sense that Wiesenfeld has really matured in terms of his production skills...
...and in content as well. Obsidian is dark; duh, that just makes good sense. It’s like they are still love songs, just written by a man whose idea of love has drastically changed. Or possibly Wiesenfeld felt this way all along and only now feels confident enough with his music to write songs openly about it. Whichever the case is, the record comes off as very personal and very dark. Even songs that probably aren’t directly about Wiesenfeld come across as personal sounding, something about their presentation makes them take the form of confessions. The last song doesn’t even have words but still manages to feel like it is trying to say something and we the listeners are left to pick up the pieces. Making an album like that is gutsy, to borrow a line from Maximalist, “it takes a lot of courage to go out there and radiate your essence.” Wiesenfeld does it very well, and when you are a producer like he is, good production will always trump lyrics in terms of importance. That is not to say that the lyrics are bad. Far from it, I just mean that if you are not looking to be bummed out by the music you are listening to Obsidian is still worth a listen.
Oh and the singing! The singing is worth mentioning. Cerulean almost felt sacrilegious in the way that Wiesenfeld put his voice on the record. There was just something a little bit weird about someone who is clearly billing themselves as a producer to be singing on their records without featuring a single other artist. Just imagine if Burial tried that, you can’t because you don’t know what Burial sounds like. Wiesenfeld’s voice is weird, not the type of thing that you could hear and immediately think was good, but like I already said it works. The vocals on Obsidian feel very natural, and I give credit to anyone who can make the transition from guy who doesn’t sing to guy who does. Obsidian is a good album. It might be unbearably sad, but there is a touch of hope on it and a few danceable numbers. What more can you really ask for?