These are good times for new Los Angeles breakbeat material. We are floating in an abundance of it which, although joyful for the anxious headz like me, could seem annoying to those on the outside. Therefore, in these times of excess, it is more necessary than ever to get the magnifying glass out and inspect with a close eye all of the numerous dishes of futuristic hip-hop, selecting only the finest caviar, rare and unusual, for consumption. Yes, we already know that out there we can find a pack of beatmakers who know how to handle the post-Dilla digital alchemy like no one else, but we’ve passed through the initial phases of the phenomenon, and it’s time for the renovators to rise up: those who are able to go beyond this dimension in search of the hidden secrets of the universe. Will Wiesenfeld, alias Baths, is one of these adventurers, who has hoisted sail for new horizons to reach exciting and exotic shores.
Built on a frame of dreamy electronic poly-rhythms, IDM made of joints, fire, and Dilla-like hip-hop, "Cerulean" exhales a melodic breeze that caresses the listener's skin. Without falling into fickle sentimentality, the album exudes tenderness, charm and a delightful playfulness. You automatically soften up. It’s special for its particular approach to indie-tronica and pop, with both genres present on almost all of the cuts on the album - twilight guitars and the odd falsetto chorus of "Lovely Blood Flow" are compelling evidence. The sounds are foreign, but treated with a silk glove. The beat is futuristic and introverted, but has an emotional spark that traps you. For example, “Maximalist” follows the typical Los Angeles style more than ever, but even in this mix of samples and furious hip-hop breaks, the aura is gently captured, and it’s one of the great tracks on the album.
It is inevitable that we bring up Boards Of Canada and Panda Bear. Their mark is visible and omnipresent. But, the assimilation of the “Canada-like” sound isn’t a simple case of mimicry, translated to the “new beat” context. Rather, it’s bringing the British duo's dream flashes to a new melodic level, imbuing the sound with a unique silhouette laced with this powerful influence and placing it in a poptronic context marked by the martian falsetto that fills the bulk of the album. The traces of Panda Bear are mostly audible in the puzzle of micro-sounds and the moving psychedelia found on many of the tracks. The formula tastes like heaven in cuts like “Hall” (without a doubt the best track on the album), with it’s level of formal, resounding melodic perfection. “Indoorsy” responds to a similar psychedelia, but is closer to pop and has more accentuated vocals. “You’re My Excuse to Travel” is futuristic funk-pop madness that’s intoxicating, making you crazy and brightening your day.
However, when the tone of voice loses that acid-tinged Prince touch, and the context becomes more emo, the stimulation level drops and it’s time to reach for the antidepressants. “Rain Smell” and “Departure”, the most emo moments, aren’t to be recommended at all for those sad days. For “Cerulean” is a sad album; it’s an almost perfect (and futuristic) demonstration of compositional talent and melodic intuition. It awakens the child-like fascination of the listener, creating fantasy worlds, as in “Apologetic Shoulder Blades”, which is like a Walt Disney soundtrack composed by an alien race. Or on “Animals”, with its children’s choir and good vibe, Dilla-like sound. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t prepared. It was something that grew inside with each listen. There are things on this album that will leave you in amazement. My favourite eastern egg is “Plea”, a feat that sounds as if the The Stone Roses and Flying Lotus had recorded together, beyond time - a master endeavour from what will surely be one of the best albums from Anticon in 2010. The West Coast strikes again. Los Angeles, ahhhhh, always Los Angeles.