Music

Baths: Cerulean

Baths' calculated and deliberately intrusive sense of rhythm makes Cerulean far from incidental chill-out music.


Baths

Cerulean

Label: Anticon
US Release Date: 2010-07-06
UK Release Date: 2010-08-02
Amazon
iTunes

The love child genre of electronica and shoegaze, endearingly labelled glo-fi, has a large pallet of sound and influence to paint from. The bar is raised considerably by many acts who dabble in it. Witness Washed Out’s fuzzy memory pop-gaze, Delorean’s ethereal rave comedown, and now Baths’ schizophrenic basement beats. What the first two bands strive for is calm and textured atmospheres; the latter doesn’t want to make your life that easy.

Baths (a.k.a. Will Weisenfeld) doesn't believe that the traditionally peaceful glo-fi should necessarily be a totally blissed out experience. Take away the clicks, claps and dinosaur footstep kicks and you’ve got a Brian Eno record. It's the calculated and deliberately intrusive sense of rhythm that makes Cerulean far from incidental chill-out music.

Take the busy burblings of "Maximalist", which is aptly named, considering its impatient pace and frequent starts and stops. Despite all the layers of melody and noise that make up the track, it's ultimately the beat that calls the shots. With each thunderous kick, the rest of the track is side-chained under its colossal instruction. Lovely Bloodflow would be unequivocally lovely if it were not for a construction site disturbing the peace.

Baths also has a taste for dramatics that on occasion he finds too great to suppress beneath his beats. "Hall" sounds like Sigur Rós covering My Bloody Valentine, a joyous melody emerging above a caldera of seething electronics. "You’re My Excuse to Travel"’s celebratory falsetto, primitive piano and catapult snares draw a near impossible line between Thom Yorke and Passion Pit; not so glo.

There is, of course, a risk with being this recklessly trigger-happy with ideas, and sometimes Baths does indeed punch above his weight. The glitchy breakbeats that litter "Animals" serve only to overexcite what is, in fact, one of the album's less interesting soundscapes. "Indoorsy" also seems cluttered with percussion in a way that would make Aphex Twin shrug his shoulders and Radiohead turn up their noses. Baths may generally get away with bombast over subtlety, but the odd overbaked beat and unnecessary additional loop only serve to break up what could be a perfect compromise between the two elements.

Weisenfeld may not quite have his formula down to a tee yet, but luckily, a couple of tracks give us hope that Baths does appreciate the simpler things. The balearic beats of "Rafting Starlit Everglades" let warm strings and distant pianos carry them home. The artist does nothing to hide the sense of beauty and peace in their melodies. The closing track, "Departure", is a Washed Out-esque bluesy serenade played through a transistor radio that owes as much to Cocteau Twins as it does to Boards of Canada. What do you know? Baths isn’t all that tough really.

This is not to say that Baths should strive to be the next Washed Out. Far from it. It’s the sledgehammer rhythm section that makes it what it is: an ambitious electronica act that wants to grab your attention rather than fade into the background. He needn’t try so hard. One beat per track is enough, although we appreciate the generosity.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image