Our monthly round-up of electronica albums that must make it into your playlist
Baths – Obsidian
[easyreview cat1title = “Obsidian” cat1rating = 4]
Abandon any preconceptions you may have had about 20-something glitch stripling Baths, the solo project of Los Angeles-based Will Wiesenfeld. The artist is now filling out another skin entirely.Â Obsidian is the unfurling of Baths’Â adulthood guilt and fears, but strangely enough what really makes the album tick is the lyric sheet beneath its skittering exterior. For long now, artists have felt a morbid gravitation toward sexuality and death; it’s been a while, however, since electronica’s taken to either. “My men cannot get out of being pulled into the earth,”Â Baths recites, scraping closely at the grave. The off-kilter terrain is also riddled with lines like “I could prod your hurt all night.”
If you’ve heard Baths before, expect a grimier version, musically. Beats are placed more oddly than ever, your mind connects the dots through sequences that underline his order-in-chaos aesthetic. Wiesenfeld’s vocals become inflexible and slightly burdened on “Phaedra” and “No Past Lives”, and that’s where the album sags. Perhaps as Baths, he ought to start considering inviting guest vocalists. Besides the obvious singles, personalized epics like “Ossuary” and “Incompatible” make themselves heard over repeat listens. “Miasma Sky” finds Wiesenfeld as the latest to hop on to the retro synth bandwagon, so fresh it’s nearly cheesy. This song, especially, makes comparisons to the Postal Service inevitable.Â
The nearest he comes in content to his previous work is on “Inter”, closing the album almost apologetically, like stitching the wounds it opened in your head. CeruleanÂ (2010)Â may have been more outwardly pretty, butÂ ObsidianÂ finds a deeperÂ beauty through the eyes of a man who is now weary of the world.
Tricky – False Idols
[easyreview cat1title = “False Idols” cat1rating = 3]
As one of alternative British trip-hop’s scattered foster parents, over this past decade, Tricky has gone the way of so many of his contemporaries – the long fade-out into mediocrity. The Knowle West legend has been rolling alarmingly downhill since Blowback (2001), and False Idols may not be a full-fledged return to form but hopefully, it’s a promise of more polished, laidback styles making their way back into his work.
“If Only I Knew” finds the composer toying with popular song structures, modulating Fifi Rong’s voice in a way that aims to catch attention quickly. Indeed, there are still flashes of Tricky’s joyous mastery in the album’s stand-outs: the infectious groove on “Bonnie & Clyde”, Francesca Belmonte’s breathless and urgent “Nothing’s Changed”, the pleasant eclecticism that is “Chinese Interlude”. “Parenthesis” is a solid cover of an intelligent Antlers song, and “We Don’t Die” is as quietly anthemic as it gets in 2013.
In the end, in spite of Tricky’s immense production, too much of False Idols lacks that penultimate thrust to truly set the album apart. “Hey Love,” “Does It” and “Is That Your Life” feel overplayed the very first time you hear them.
In choosing to record it on his newest imprint, Tricky leaves much of his 90’s aural familiarity on display and offers hope that this decade may burn brighter for him than the last. The record may be a mixed bag but it is one well worth dipping into.
Majical Cloudz – Impersonator
[easyreview cat1title = “Impersonator” cat1rating = 3]
The wall between music that’s innovative and music that’s merely eccentric is paper thin; deciding where you stand along it is more often than not simply a matter of personal taste. Impersonator sees Canadian duo Devon Marsh and Matthew Otto experiment with commercial build-and-release sensibilities – here the build promises a release but never delivers. Music as a medium seems almost an afterthought, a vehicle used as minimally as possible to transport Marsh’s sentiment.
There’s definitely a lot of sentiment to get around over this album. The truth, though, is that despite its sparseness, it’s the lushest songs on Impersonator that work best: “Childhood’s End”, “Turns Turns Turns” and the title track itself. “Bugs Don’t Buzz”Â is a modern ballad that lunges straight for the heart.
At his worst, Marsh’s absolute soul baring becomes tedious and sometimes uncomfortable. His generic voice automatically draws attention to the weight of his words, words that play out like an especially eloquent suicide watch call. Over multiple tracks, this quickly gets old.
Majical Cloudz’s greatest failing may also, in its own way, work to the project’s advantage – Impersonator is so intimate it feels like it would be best experienced as a performance.
Ox7gen – An Ocean For Everyone EP
[easyreview cat1title = “An Ocean For Everyone” cat1rating = 3]
After hitting more than a few stutters on his last EP, Mumbai-bred drum and bass producer Ox7gen finally seems to have found his footing with the vivid (if compact) An Ocean For Everyone. The sound on this is more relaxed, almost subdued; Ox7gen is concentrating on ambiance and emotion instead of sticking to BPM-driven ritual. It shows.
“An Ocean For Everyone” is doubtless the weaker half here, chasing the familiar staid liquid vibe. Certain samples – the hushed cries of wheeling gulls, for example – seem to recall rather than recreate the intended atmosphere. The carefree shimmer of the next track, “Fox Dogs In The Summer,” translates more freely into music. Inspiration from the quieter beaches of Goa, where the album was ostensibly conceptualized, leaks nicely onto this melodic and immersive stunner.
As far as drum ’n bass stretches, the EP is certainly more enjoyable than anything of the genre to come out of the country in a while, and more so than many recent releases across the globe as well.