Pillbox

Obsidian is dark, depraved

Electronic musician Will Wiesenfeld, better known by his stage name Baths, somehow makes macabre lyrics sound beautiful in his new release. (credit: Courtesy of calebdrostphoto via Flickr) Electronic musician Will Wiesenfeld, better known by his stage name Baths, somehow makes macabre lyrics sound beautiful in his new release. (credit: Courtesy of calebdrostphoto via Flickr)

There’s something very sumptuous about death and decay when Baths sings about it. Then again, everything sung by the electronic musician (real name Will Wiesenfeld) in his jaw-dropping falsetto is like an aural dessert. On Obsidian, it’s served up with existential angst and homoerotic imagery — and it’s delicious.

Perhaps “angst” and “imagery” are understatements. The first lines of the album, on “Worsening” — a track that manages to simultaneously cleanse the soul and tear it asunder — are, “Birth was like a fat, black tongue/dripping tar and dung and dye/slowly into my shivering eyes.” That’s not angst. That’s downright macabre.

Also, homoerotic imagery would imply a degree of subtlety, of poetic nuance involved in the telling. The chorus from one of the most catchy tracks, “No Eyes,” goes like this: “And it isn’t a matter of/if you need it/But it is only a matter of/come and f*** me.”

Putting the two tracks together, you get “No Past Lives”: “Lodged in the rectal wall of agony/hell is our only home.” Kinda heavy, right? But Baths somehow makes it easy to listen to.

Needless to say, Wiesenfeld grew bold for Obsidian. The flowery and nearly indecipherable language of his debut studio album, Cerulean — as hauntingly beautiful as it was — now seems like it was a wall for him to hide behind. Now, his falsetto is unfiltered, soaring and gorgeous, but he can do luscious soundscapes to accompany it better than ever. “Ironworks” and “Worsening” are proof of that.

The downright cruelty and forthrightness in some of the tracks can be jarring, especially if you listen to Cerulean first; there’s no sign of it there. “Incompatible” shows just how acerbic Baths can be. He spends the song neglecting and castigating his “first boyfriend”: “On nights you roll over and introduce yourself/I am elsewhere,” he croons; “Fascinating, terrible, you stupid idling mind/I could prod your hurt all night.” What a nice guy.

“I was never poetic, and never kind,” he says in “Incompatible.” Well, the latter might be true, but his masterful lyrics invalidate the first.

Wiesenfeld’s voice breaks away from beauty only a couple times, and they make for some of the most powerful moments on Obsidian. Near the end of “Incompatible,” he filters his voice briefly to sounds like he’s screaming, and in “No Past Lives,” he actually does scream out the word “lodged,” as if it were a war cry. In “Earth Death,” though, he sings at nearly full voice, and you can feel that it’s just on the cusp of turning into something vile sounding — and it’s all the more entrancing for it.

Right around the time he was supposed to start making the album, Wiesenfeld got E. coli. According to Pitchfork, he spent weeks unable to do anything but sleep, go to the bathroom, and play Skyrim. The frustration and helplessness he felt during that time undoubtedly aided in creating Obsidian’s lyrics and soundscape. Perhaps they were even the driving force.

Listening to Obsidian is like meeting up with a stranger in a park at night and having the best sex of your life. It’s dirty, sensual, and incredibly frightening. After a while, though, you become accustomed to the darkness. You become resigned to the fact that your soul is just as unsalvageable as everyone else’s, that deep down you really do want this. And you transform into a creature of the night.