Three years ago, Baths dropped his startlingly beautiful debut, Cerulean. Released on Anticon, the record blurred the line between post-modern pop and the LA beat scene with devastating emotional clarity. Its tone was as celestial as its album title, taken from a shade of blue typically used to describe the sky.
Cerulean earned year-end "Best Of" recognition from Pitchfork and The Onion's A.V. Club and established Chatsworth-raised Will Wiesenfeld as one of the finest young composers (and falsettos) in Los Angeles. His sophomore album, Obsidian finds him emerging as one of the most complete artists of his generation. As you might expect, the name hints at darker overtones. The mood is shimmering and pitch-black, the lovely blood flow has turned into lava.
"I've always been inspired by really dark material and from the beginning I knew I wanted the songs to be much darker, both musically and lyrically," Baths says.
Following the success of his first album, Baths spent much of the next year touring to progressively larger audiences. He also released an ethereal ambient project under the Goetic name. When he returned home in July of 2011 to record his sophomore effort, he was bedridden for months because of the E. Coli bacterial virus, barely able to digest solid food and bereft of creative energy.
Obsidian understandably has these scars etched into its imprint. The first song is called "Worsening," subsequent cuts include "Ossuary," "No Past Lives" and "Earth Death." While the mood is often bleak, it's never bloated. "Miasma Sky" balances being "swallowed alive by the sky" with a gorgeous piano groove and levitative croon that could detonate a disco club night. The album is unusually cohesive, suffused with heavenly choirs, head-nodding percussion, erotic lyrics, and wry humor
"The songs and lyrics all came out of a pretty fucked and arduous process of trial and error," Baths says. "But I hope people understand that I'm not the depressed, suicidal, and death-obsessed person the record may paint me as being. These are just darker areas that I wanted to explore."
The areas of exploration include reading and research into the Dark Ages and the black plague, different versions of Hell as spied through Dante's Inferno, the Bible, and old world illuminated manuscripts and paintings. These noirish fascinations met the virtuosic chops of a 24-year old who has been playing piano for 20 years.
"Anything I found that felt like a unique vision of darker emotions or atmospheres, I tried to absorb," Baths says. "Being a positive and outgoing guy made it that much more difficult getting into that mindset. It was a matter of tapping into that and returning with songs that felt genuine and somehow from my own personal experience."
This is the power of Obsidian. It combines universal questions with personal pain. On just his second album, Baths exhibits what only a few artists are capable of: painting in any shade they desire.
To raise the new, one must raze the old. For the better part of the past decade, Los Angeles producer/DJ Jerome Potter has utilized his creative efforts toward LOL Boys, a collaborative project that was sparked via an online message board with likeminded DJ Markus Garcia. Undoubtedly a fruitful endeavor, debuting numerous buzzworthy EPs and becoming among the most in-demand DJs in the LA club scene, the LOL Boys recently reached their climax with the release of their most acclaimed record to date, the Changes EP, and have since announced their decision to put the venture on an indefinite hiatus. From the ashes of LOL Boys though, rises Jerome Potter's newfound solo enterprise, Jerome LOL. And now, with the ability to contribute to the entire greater whole rather than just half, Jerome LOL is set to continue right where LOL Boys left off: further exploring uncharted spectrums in modern dance music while still maintaining the unique, Internet-fueled aesthetic.
Here's another pleasantly disorienting number from adventurous Atlanta beat-maker Patrick Loggins, aka Time Wharp. Built on a series of ridiculously over-the-top sawtooth waves, a stumbling drum kit, and a sonically abused jazz chord progression, "Cuspcake" is psychedelic lounge music, somewhere between Animal Collective and UK bass/dubstep producers like Velour or Optimum. --Noam Klar, Don't Die Wondering