Album review: Baths – Romaplasm

As the fourth studio album under the alias Baths, Will Wiesenfeld has released Romaplasm. With such high reviews for his previous work, despite only being around for seven years, can the 28 year old electronic prodigy keep up the pace?

Even as the opening track “Yeoman” fires up, it’s easy to see how Will Wiesenfeld’s music was referred to as “gorgeous” by Irish magazine Electronic music often suffers at the hands of critics who deride it as simple or as ‘just a guy at a computer’. However, Baths does much to disprove this. The melodies are intricate and subtly built to a crescendo amongst the frankly impressive vocals with an 8-bit percussive line at the rear of sampled looped effects and makes for an excellent example of electronica.

When listening to “Out”, later on in the track listing, the 8 bit percussion is given the floor. The track (if vocals were removed anyway) wouldn’t be amiss on a SNES game but with the falsetto vocals layered over the beat it makes for an excellent bit of listening.

Keeping up the excellent loop and sample work later in the album comes “Adam Copies”. Cleverly named (this reviewer hopes anyway) for the repetitive loop that carries through the majority of the track, the pacy rave-worthy track uses percussion artistically, keeping a pulsing bass line but without any real sense of the much derided ‘wubs’ that EDM and dubstep popularised/demonised.

“Extrasolar” is filled with a vinyl crackle from the offset and does an eerily good job of adding warmth to the track. Whether this is due to it triggering some form of sensory memory with what I expect from vinyl I’m not sure, but it lifts the coolness of the electronic piano and synthesised woodwind instruments at the rear of the track. Tailed off with sampled strings, it’s a perfect track to lie down and fall into.

As a nod to his more ambient side project, Geotic, comes “Abscond”. The track is still be vocally and lyrically rich (although a little strange combining the imagery of stealing a princess away from a castle to a backdrop of electronic chords), and the swell of electronic tones runs through the veins of the track and keeps the listener pinned. The penultimate track “Coitus” takes the ambient route for itself as well. With strings and atmospheric piano backdrop, the vocals reverberate throughout the track and build a world, intimate and limited in scope, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Human Bog” follows directly on with the same tone-filled approach, shot through with a bit more of what appears to be Aphex Twin influenced circuit bent sound. However, the track feels too jumbled. Where the masterful work and ordered chaos of Aphex Twin may succeed, sadly Baths doesn’t quite reach the same heights.

Sadly, it’s not the only weaker track on the album. “Wilt” is well-suited by it name. The track starts strong with a rhythmic drum line and piano the track starts to become disjointed and lose its way. The aptly named “Superstructure” comes closer towards the end of the album. It’s a complex and textually rich track with plenty of tempo changes and structural leaps. Where “Human Bog” tried for Aphex Twin and failed, “Superstructure” succeeds. With a track that, musically if not vocally wouldn’t be amiss on Aphex Twin’s Syro album, it’s easily a contender for the best track of the album.

As we end the album on “Broadback”, the album feels almost cyclical. This reviewer’s immediate thought was that it followed the same structure, only faster, as “Yeoman”, the open track. Skip back to the beginning and it’s not far wrong. And so we end as we begin, with an overall excellent show of electronic craftsmanship.