Where do I even begin with Will Weisenfeld’s project, Baths. Baths has released two albums: Cerulean (2010) and Obsidian (2013). What we have here with Baths is an artist who has created a body of work that is in perfect conversation with itself. Each of his tracks take the listener on an emotional and musical ride that leaves you simultaneously terrified and enamored. Each album is incredible on its own, but when put in context with each other, a whole new realm is opened and you have a direct line to Weisenfeld’s voice. Strap in, because I’ve never made a post on this blog that excites me as much as this artist and I am going to try my hardest to share his talent with you in the best way possible. Let’s start with Baths’ first album Cerulean.
The song I’ve chosen, “Aminals,” I believe perfectly represents the album and the sound that it tries to capture. I’m going to be honest, this isn’t fair at all. I’m a firm believer that picking out individual tracks of an album is a mistake, because the album is meant to be listened to as a whole. It’s like picking a single scene out of a movie, with no context or storyline, and attempting to guess what the entire film is about. Sadly, I’m not going to review the entire album here, because that’s boring and I’m just trying to give you guys a glimpse of its potential and hopefully you will move on from there. Aminals starts with a bright slurred chord progression and a sample of a small child’s voice describing his playtime. This is what Cerulean is all about, youth and vibrance, trying and failing, naivete at its purest. The track is childish in its production, in that the beat never stays in one place with a lot of accidental hits and swung rhythms. You’ll hear everything from a funky bass line, to an out of time picked acoustic guitar. At first listen, it feels just… wrong, but then at random moments, like at 1:20, it all comes together for a split second and you hear that there’s a method to the madness. This child-like blend of seemingly unformed sounds all of the sudden shines through with abundant clarity, much like the clarity children can often have. It’s raw, honest, and at times confusing, which makes it that much more compelling.
Between these two albums, Will Weisenfeld, the man, went through a life-changing experience. Plagued by E. Coli, Weisenfeld was bed-ridden, unable to eat or get up for months. This, coupled with a profound personal clash with his musical and artistic style, led to Obsidian. Into this album, he pours all of his fear, his pain, his lust, and his hate into a set of melodies that looks at you from the abyss. It’s remarkably similar to Cerulean in many ways, in that it constantly transitions between beauty and dissonance, but here rather than just abject rejection of rhythm, as was done in Cerulean, we see terror and anger that immediately conflicts with the inherent beauty of these tracks. “Miasma Sky” is a great example of this dialogue. At first listen, it feels beautiful in a subversive, threatening way. A beauty you’re scared to stare at directly. There’s a click track that feels just slightly out of place, but adds to the speed of the piece. It isn’t in the music that you’ll find Weisenfeld’s terror or fear, it is in the lyrics. His soft, understated voice betrays the meaning behind his words:
Tall rock shelf, are you maybe here to help me hurt myself?
Miasma Sky would you swallow me alive?
He is begging nature to ease his pain and his self-hate, but he gets no response, with neither his beauty or his hate. It is a direct rejection of the naivete and childlike nature of Cerulean. Obsidian is mature, it’s in pain, and it’s angry, just like Weisenfeld was. He grew up and this album is his way of showing you a direct line to his soul. But nothing comes close to how raw he is in his live performances.
Along with the two songs I’ve mentioned above, I’m going to be posting Baths’ live performance at Pitchfork Paris last year. I’ve been listening to this performance for months now and I’ve done everything from sleep, study, and eat to this set and I think you guys need to listen to it. Weisenfeld makes sense when he’s on stage and you begin to understand the deeper meanings behind his studio tracks when you watch him give himself entirely to his music. Please please please listen to Baths and let us know what you think of our artist overview!