Skittering electro that is by turns incredibly beautiful and beguilingly intricate.
Mike Diver 2010
You briefly turn your back on a scene and everything changes. Dubstep was (seemingly) pegged until 2010 albums from the likes of Skream and Rusko made it clear that the once-gloomy genre had taken substantial steps towards an accessible, mainstream-friendly sound since Burial got a few bookies sweating with his 2008 Mercury nomination. Chillwave now covers a slew of bedroom-based individuals, purveyors of luscious layers and fuzzy atmospherics – see, in particular, Washed Out and Neon Indian. But Baths, aka Los Angeles resident Will Wiesenfeld, has gone and tinkered somewhat with the tried-and-tested formula, and now we have a record that’s got a foot in two slightly different stylistic camps.
On the left, those chillwave (glo-fi, dream-pop, whatever) protagonists; Baths’ closest parallel probably South Carolina’s Toro Y Moi. On the right, the skew-whiffy beat-doodles of Brainfeeder don Flying Lotus and his disciples in playfully skittering sounds (see also: Lorn, HudMo, Oriol). The combination could have resulted in a chaotic long-player, but Wiesenfeld has reined in anything too buck-wild to deliver an immersive experience that, while offering little that’s not already been heard before, is by turns incredibly beautiful and beguilingly intricate.
The relative success of Cerulean – the title a variety of the colour blue – bodes well for the future of solo producers of Wiesenfeld’s sonic persuasion. Whereas older dance sub-genres such as techno and drum’n’bass have largely stalled artistically, marked evolution rare and contemporary albums of note rarer still, the still-evolving nature of this field suggests its best is yet to come. Baths’ debut stretches the sides of the best-heard-horizontally scene from which it stems, but never does it breach them – as such, it’s a record that relies on the listener having past experience of its maker’s peers for its flickers of ambition to become apparent. It’s a signpost towards something over the horizon, something wonderfully new; but that something isn’t completely clear yet.
At its most intoxicating, Cerulean is wonderfully escapist fare – track four (a heart shape) builds from a sparse piano intro into an enveloping piece of melancholic electro-pop, Hall is both perplexing and lulling, and the penultimate Plea features some of the most arrestingly sweet-and-sour lyrics of the year. Even at its most perfunctory – Maximalist and Aminals echo Clark and Bibio respectively – it’s never dull. What Wiesenfeld must do next is take the language he has mastered, his accent impeccable, and use it to say something truly unexpected.
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