“Everything about that record is cursed.”
Will Wiesenfeld says that with a laugh, but it’s not really a joke. Obsidian, his second album under the name Baths, set off a brutal run of shows with a new collaborator, Morgan Greenwood, and electronic failures that seemed to have come from a witch’s hex.
But you could have gotten the cursed feeling just from the music. Obsidian is at once a dancy, electronic album and an uncompromisingly punishing listen. So hear our interview with Wiesenfeld, read our thoughts on Obsidian and see why it’s one of the best of the 10s.
Polluted skies make the prettiest sunsets. The toxic particulates reflect light in unnatural purples and reds, making ghastly, transfixing fireworks that poison and astound. That’s the best way to think about Baths Obsidian. Will Wiesenfeld made a majestic heelturn, from Baths’ bubbly debut Cerulean to the lead-heavy crush of Obsidian. Using the visual power of nature, Wiesenfeld aims, not for self-erasure but, self-obliteration. On “Miasma Sky” he coos “tall rock shelf are you maybe here to help me hurt myself?” The ocean growls like a starving beast, the pounding electronics babbling below like misfiring synapses.
But Obsidian is still a pop album, albeit through the lens of complete numbness. Hedonistic displays and baroque strings flow through “Ironworks,” bringing the fucked romanticism to the fore. Wiesenfeld eulogizes first love as “fail your maiden voyage” and follows in highlight “No Eyes” by screaming “And it is not a matter of if you mean it/ it is just a matter of come and fuck me.” It is ugliness realizing itself and wishing for destruction.
And that desire for devastation rears its head in Obsidian’s most vicious tracks. Few rock songs this decade could out muscle “Ossuary,” “Earth Death” or “Phaedra,” even with the heavenly chorus that floats above the industrial pulse. The eerie wonder of Boards of Canada and the fury of Nine Inch Nails are overwhelming, but maximalism was the only way Obsidian could exist. It is an exhausting listen, both for the emotional weariness and the rushing tempos. Its melodrama, beauty and depravity are all absolute.