Baths – Cerulean
Warm and bubbly, just the way I like ‘em
Diving head first into Los Angeles’ already over-saturated “glitch-hop” scene (not that we’re complaining: see Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing) is 21-year-old Will Weisenfeld, aka Baths. Considerably more pop and vocal based than his beat driven predecessors, he has crafted a splendidly spontaneous debut album in Cerulean that’s every bit as soothing and enveloping as his name would imply.
Part of the pleasure of this selection of songs is in each one’s simultaneous sloppiness and sincerity. Each beat has an of-the-moment air about it, like it was laid out during recording and not a moment before. However, Weisenfeld’s wistful songwriting proves that he intended it no other way. The wobbly nature of his compositions perfectly compliment the melancholy in his singing, even when it’s just a few simple lines repeated over and over.
Take album climax and highlight “Plea,” for example. Much has been made of the sexual ambiguity of Weisenfeld’s object of affection in this song, particularly in light of the recent Prop 8 drama (”We’re still not valid / Please tell me you need me”). Though the circumstances certainly add bonus weight to the proceedings, the song would be just as poignant regardless of who it was written for. Weisenfeld’s singing often falls somewhere between the melodrama of Passion Pit and the distant docility of chillwave artists like Washed Out. Such a combination brings a warmth to the glitch-hop scene that you might never have known was missing but won’t be able to do without ever again.
That’s not to say Cerulean is all hearts on sleeves raw emotion. Baths can crank that beat up something fierce at the drop of a hat. “Maximalist” sports a masterfully muscular beat as a female vocal sample assures that “it takes courage to go out there and assert yourself” (lending more weight to the gay subtext). Elsewhere, Weisenfeld bathes in unsettling but engaging piano melodies on the heartbreakingly earnest “You’re My Excuse to Travel” and the title-says-it-all “♥.”
As varied and sprawling as glitch-hop godfather Flying Lotus’s own recent magnum opus Cosmogramma but softer and sweeter than Steven Ellison would ever arguably allow himself to be, Weisenfeld’s debut as Baths is a marvelous and moving mission statement. Given his age and relative newness to the indie-sphere, one can only imagine the emotional and musical heights he might reach in the future. For now, we have this comforting collection to return to and soak in whenever we want.
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