Baths – Pop Music/False B-Sides II Review

Around 2010, electronic music was dominated by a wave of indietronica and psychedelic synth pop, especially after the release of albums like MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular and Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective‘s most popular work to date. At the time, Baths had released his first record, Cerulean, providing an interesting alternative to a musical landscape that was becoming more and more repetitive with little to offer.

After several releases through the years, switching from Obsidian’s dark and horror-tinged atmospheres to the hyperkinetic anime world sounds of Romaplasm, Baths – real name Will Wiesenfeld – brings us a new collection of songs and ideas.

Pop Music/False B-Sides II is a sequel to a collection of other B-sides, released in 2011, and collects unreleased material that Will has wrote since 2013, both for Baths and Geotic, his side project. Although these tracks have been definitely reworked and retouched with a more pop-oriented mindset, they still preserve their core sound intact.

“Immerse” is the perfect opening for the collection, Baths at his finest: his tender voice on a beat lead by an emo guitar arpeggio that sounds like summer breeze hitting your face. On the following tracks, “Tropic Laurel” and “Mikaela Corridor”, Will traces the steps of his project, giving a great catchy and pop delivery on the first one that evokes the glitchier moments of his career, and a more deep and obscure vibe on the second, with eerie sounds that seem produced by a squeaky door.

The emo pattern returns in “Agora” and “Stomach Tile”, with riffs that sound like American Football doing electronic or Joan of Arc at their best, while songs like “Fortuna” are more glitchy and hyperactive, without losing their freshness.  These two leitmotivs meet each other in the closing tracks of the collection: “Lung Tile”, “Be That” and “The Stones” maintain the emo pace and riffs in a more downtempo groove, losing their tenderness to become more sad and contemplative.

However, there are also several moments where Baths explores entirely new territories. “Sex” –  a personal favorite – introduces some hip-hop textures on a tender ballad with a joyful climax, or on “Veranda Shove” which mixes ethereal choirs with heavy bass and a complex set of drums.

In the end, Pop Music/False B-Sides II is a synthesis of the sounds that have defined Will’s career between Baths and Geotic, renewing his delivery and creating a cohesive collage that summarizes perfectly what Baths was and still is.

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