Cerulean, Will Weisenfeld’s first outing as Baths, was the kind of slow-flowering, word-of-mouth success story rarely witnessed in today’s hype-hungry music scene. A tender and uplifting matrimony of skittish beats, affable melodies and swirling, choral vocals – its sheer uniqueness made it the kind of record music fans would gleefully wheel out in front of friends and the uninitiated alike.
Three years later, and its follow-up is no less worthy of dissemination, although anyone hungering for more of that strident, off-kilter experimentalism enjoyed previously will find Obsidian a very different affair. Having contracted a debilitating case of E. Coli in 2011 that left him bedridden and helpless for months, Weisenfeld’s return to music comes from an altogether darker place, and he wants you to know it.
Gone, for the most part, are the amorphic chopped vocals, replaced with a far more overt style of singing – one in which the recurrent themes of frustration, anger, worthlessness, and sexual callousness are given full room to breathe. The at times unapologetically brazen lyrics are a far cry from the naive and almost childlike positivity of Cerulean, although, remarkably, the hooks are somehow even catchier than before. While that might seem contradictory, it’s this plainer style of songwriting that helps each track burrow deep into the mind like a silkworm, leaving you humming along to the irresistible melodies long before the import of the words has had time to percolate.
Once they have, however, it becomes fully apparent just how much of an intensely personal project Obsidian has been – one that comes from the very core of its creator’s being. The fact it emerged from the murky emotional miasma every bit as polished and playable as its predecessor is testament to his enduring talent as an artist.
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Words: Alex Gwilliam