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Baths – Cerulean

March 3, 2011

It wasn’t long ago that alternative music meant just one thing: scruffy lads playing guitar based indie rock (or variations thereof), and those who subscribed to this “indie” genre (fans and professional critics alike) would stay well away from the Top 40, let alone rap or R&B artists. But gradually, and I’m not entirely sure how or when this happened, the likes of Kanye West and Mark Ronson have seeped into the mainstream-indie world (culminating in Jay-Z’s outstanding performance at Glasto ’08), and now it’s commonplace to see electronic music (of all kinds) alongside their guitar based contemporaries, and rightfully so. Why were they separated in the first place? Is this relevant? Not really. Without further ado, I will introduce to you Will Wiesenfeld, an experimental electronica artist who goes by the name Baths, who I would undoubtedly never have listened to had I still been shackled to my rockin’ roots, but it just goes to show that if you expand your horizons, you expand your tastes. But I digress, again… so here’s a tune from Baths.

Baths – Aminals

Wiesenfeld grew up in California, where he still lives, and started his forray into music as a classical pianist but quickly moved away from this, finding his passion in musical experimenting. He has been writing and producing electronic and ambient music since his early teens, releasing a few EPs under different names, but finally gained some much-deserved attention from Anticon with whom he released this album last year, and has subsequently released a further not-b-sides album entitled Pop Music/False B-sides.

Baths’ debut, Cerulean, is a smooth record which reminds me very much of Bibio’s Ambivalence Avenue, and there are hints of the influence of many other electronic artists such as The Field, Boards of Canada, Hudson Mohawke, as well as some clear classical influences, and there are even smidgens of classic rock in there somewhere. But I think Baths has crafted a unique spot for himself in amongst them, paying tribute to his peers but in no way ripping them off. Despite his young age (he is just 21), he has skilfully encapsulated a chilled out vibe, with catchy beats, whilst maintaining a level of tension with his sparse piano and choppy vocals, and keeps me interested with a variety-bag of samples and tools (he uses a full band’s worth of instruments as well as scissors, pens and other bits and bobs to make some of his own samples).

Baths – Apologetic Shoulderblades

Cerulean ebbs and flows between vocal driven semi-ballads, almost-poppy dancable numbers and ambient tunes. The entire album was recorded in a couple of months in Baths’ bedroom studio, and one can imagine the urge to continually morph his sound based on what he hears, and what he feels like playing, which gives rise to an album which pushes the borders of the genre. The chill-wave influences of the likes of Boards of Canada is clear, but there are also smatterings of dubstep and hip hop and perhaps even R&B, as well as a hint of James Blake-ness about his fragile vocals. Wiesenfeld is resourceful in his sampling; the dyslexically titled ‘Aminals’ features extracts from an interview with a kid, and a great sample used on ‘Maximalist’ tells us “It takes a lot of courage to go out there and radiate your essence”. ‘Indoorsy’ uses a gentle guitar lick over a frantic drumbeat, while ‘Rafting Starlit Everglades’ is a Field-like ambient piece with an interesting muffled feel to it. The album highlight for me is “♥”; a disparate love song with a haunting piano melody which deals with his experiences as an openly gay young man (yes, he’s gay).

Baths – ♥

The album title, Cerulean, refers to a range of colours somewhere in the region of sky blue to sea blue. After listening to the album (or even just reading the track names, nay, the artist name) the link with the sky and with water become obvious. Cerulean plays out smoothly, and while it might lull you to sleep, those who pay close attention will be rewarded with a diverse selection of well produced, heartfelt and warming songs which promise to engross and fascinate from start to finish.

 

You can listen to Baths on Spotify or Myspace, and be sure to check out some other featured songs from our blog too!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. marininha.dias permalink
    March 3, 2011 5:19 pm

    Very good post.
    Thank you for sharing some great artists with us yet once more!

  2. j-diz permalink
    March 4, 2011 10:46 am

    All this time I had thought the album was self-titled – oops! Cerulean is much better. I’ve never tried listening to this when I’m not in bed trying to fall asleep, so even though I’ve put it on loads I probably won’t recognise the second half of the album at all! An all too familiar fate for ambient albums unfortunately, but I rarely feel they are appropriate listening when I am awake. Maybe I’ll try studying to this album – what’s your recommended listening ‘space’ (for want of a better word) for this album?

  3. Chris Bingo permalink
    March 6, 2011 4:01 pm

    I quite like this guy’s style. There’s a little bit of Jackson to his setup. Especially with Animals with that stop-start rhythm going on. Unfortunately though I cannot stand the guys voice which is really unfortunate as that is pretty much a make or break thing for me. I’ll still give it a listen though – but guys – this isn’t what I would call ambient music.

    Jase, you could easily listen to some of this in the car on a summer drive somewhere, not before going to bed unless you wanna dream about someone hitting you over the head with a drum/sample pad.

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