I'm not really a fan of people describing a work of art as a "comeback" or even worse, a "rebirth". Such descriptions generally feel vapid and hollow, and are usually reserved for albums released by artists that people have generally forgotten about and long given up on.
And yet, I am struggling to find a more appropriate descriptor for Baths
' new album Romaplasm
. It's not just the fact that it's been four years since Will Wiesenfeld released new material under the Baths moniker, but it feels like it's been so long since Baths has really been Baths. The chillwave-cum-chiptune vibes that brought Wiesenfeld notoriety with 2010's Cerulean
were quickly replaced by a noticeably darker ambiance on the full-length Obsidian
and EP Ocean Death
. Stylistically, there wasn't a huge difference between Cerulean
and the later two works, but the lyricism created a noticeably bleaker atmosphere that was a pretty significant about face. The eclectic joie de vivre that felt at home during an Adult Swim commercial break was replaced by broadenings on mortality, failed relationships, and suicidal ideation.
That's not to say there wasn't a profound beauty in the darkness of those tunes. Ocean Death
especially felt like an ambitious attempt at purging the miasma ingested in Obsidian
. Now, with Romaplasm
, it feels as if Wiesenfled is post-purge, creating in a space where he is free of the weight he carried in the last two releases. A rebirth certainly sounds cliche, but perhaps it's safe to say that the hangover has finally abated. Romaplasm
is like waking up to find that the sickness has passed, and after going through the throes of illness, there is a lightness and gaiety in feeling well again.
is as layered and multifaceted as anything Baths has produced before, and returns to the nostalgia-inspired fantasy of Cerulean
. While it doesn't have the true 8-bit feel produced by diehard chiptune producers, Romaplasm
plays like the soundtrack to a fantastical RPG voyage, leaving behind the muck and the mire of Obsidian
and Ocean Death
to explore the sounds and intricacies of a Sega Genesis and Dungeons and Dragons quest. Tracks like "Abscond" carry you along with bouncing, bright synths, modulated strings, and numerous instrumentations that weave in and out of the sonic layers like fireflies blinking on and off.
There's also a reverie in Wiesenfeld's voice which hasn't been heard in awhile. The vocals of the single "Extrasolar" aim for something higher than self-deprecation and existential doubt, and in the opener "Yeoman" Wiesenfeld even imagines riding the clouds in an airship with a lover, watching the world they've left behind pass below them.
This is all not to say that Romaplasm
is a practice in escapism. There's still some of the self-doubt and criticism that existed in Obsidian
and Ocean Death
, but rather than indulging in it and getting bogged down in the quagmire, Wiesenfeld counterbalances it with moments of levity and acceptance. It would be naive for Baths to create an album where he flees entirely from himself, so instead he allows himself relief from the pains inflicted by himself in the previous albums.
isn't a complete abandonment of grounded melancholy of the previous two albums, but it doesn't indulge in their subject matter either. There are many little, reminiscent pleasures found in the album, and the notion that Wiesenfeld might be moving on to bigger and brighter pastures.