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Reviews

Baths
Pop Music / False B-Sides Daniel Dylan Wray , July 18th, 2011 10:03

The fragmented manipulation of sonic grooves, dense pulsations and lush soundscapes that stain-washed his debut Cerulean was testament to the fact that Baths is an artist who deals in textures, tonalities and atmospheres as much, if not more than he does simply 'songs'

A B-sides record then, might on the surface seem like a bizarre choice so early on in his career. However, it seems the clever title is making a distinction, indicating that the record is a means of keeping things active, or perhaps offering a brief dip into the world of Baths outside of Cerulean, rather signposting this as a fully-fledged release.

Will Wiesenfeld (for Baths is he) recently seemed to confirm this; his plans for Cerulean's follow up are bold and plentiful, and even include orchestration he intends to write and arrange himself. Manipulation always seems to be the focal point in Baths' work – twisting, cutting and tampering until we are left with a skeleton covered in new skin. The art of manipulation of course, is balance and restraint - allowing the material to breath within it's new found environment rather than being suffocated by it. Both these traits are ones Baths seems to be mindful of, and for the most part, this carefulness extends onto this latest offering. Opener 'Pop Song' is a glorious and ethereal example of tweaking the rhythmic structure just enough to make it perpetually enticing, never alienating. The enticement continues - 'Tourian Coutship' is a vortex that sucks you into its world, a world that becomes a dreamy concoction of the organic and the synthesised - acoustics and electronics merging harmoniously. The ensuing 'Somerset' too is a marvel, awash with delicate textures; it feels seamless in its ability to create warmth - almost acting as a sonic blanket. While the song also conveys a sincere sense of emotive power through it's subtle execution.

The principal difference that starts to emerge in regards to previous material is the inclusion of more prominent vocals from Wiesenfeld himself. They often take the helm of a song, instead of just being a wrought effect floating in the background. His voice moves between the softer, nasally outpourings akin to a more reserved Xiu-Xiu, to the screechy, high-pitched warble that evokes comparisons to Kevin Barnes. 'Tatami' representing the former, in it's delicate outpourings. 'Flux' an example of the latter, the vocals lie atop a sea of twisted, demented beats that is perhaps the albums most Cerulean-like moment and certainly the most unhinged on the record.

The thicker, more pulsating beats and electronics that soaked the debut LP are largely vacant here - it's a restrained and stripped-back affair. Paradoxically, the most evocative moments on the album are the simplest and least toyed with. Wiesenfeld's classically trained piano keys move to the fore on some songs, such as 'Iniuria Palace' which is startling in it's simplistic beauty and yet grandiosely cinematic in its scope, together they meld with gorgeous fragile splendour – less Flying Lotus, more Max Richter, perhaps. The ingrained inclusion of acoustic guitar in a lot of this record almost cements it as a display and exploration of ambience more than the chillwave with which Baths has been lumped. But rather than feel lacking or vacant in comparison to Cerulean, it has instead expanded the sonic palette of Baths, offering an insight into where this talented mind might be headed next.

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