When asked what might follow 2010′s beauteous Cerulean, Will Wiesenfeld stated on multiple occasions that his next album, under the title of his music project Baths, would be “hopefully much darker and almost antithetical to how positive Cerulean was”. Contrary to what the ominous vignetted cover art of Obsidian might suggest, Wiesenfeld’s sophomore album is not so much a dark album as it is a rigorously raw collection of songs about topics not commonly discussed at the dinner table. Obsidian gingerly picks the scab open on such topics as mortality, suicide and the callous ache for a self-indulgent fuck. But, let’s not be sheepish. As painful as picking a scab might be, with every wince also comes a certain amount of satisfaction.
In this case, the satisfaction comes in Wiesenfeld’s overall approach and how he toys with these themes on Obsidian. “Worsening”, the opening song of the album commences with a Wiesenfeld’s dull chant against a crackle that then abruptly segues into a flurry of percussion accompanied by a celestial chorus of somber disposition. This wall of sound hits like lead and pulls the listener down into a vortex of sound where the spiraling effect creates a feeling of uncanniness and dissociation from the immediate. This suspension of disbelief enables Wiesenfeld to melodically ask in the latter half of “Worsening” such an existential question as, “Where is God when you hate him most?” without running the risk of sounding brashly melodramatic. This song sets a tone for the album that Obsidian carries all the way through.
Apart from dissociating his listener into an otherworldly atmosphere, Wiesenfeld is able to discuss socially-unbecoming notions on Obsidian without running the high-risk of making a listening second party uncomfortable. Instrumentally, “Miasma Sky” sounds like a lo-fi electro pop track that you might find yourself swaying to at your friend’s weekend get-together. However, Wiesenfeld’s lyrics on “Miasma Sky” add another coat to the track that distorts the all-in-good-fun dance number. With a hollow and insipid air, Wiesenfeld coos “Tall rock shelf, are you maybe here to help me hurt myself?/Miasma sky would you swallow me alive?” Even though the track is danceable, Weisenfeld’s existential questions are enough to seat you on a stool mulling in the corner of the dance floor. The juxtaposition of the serenely blissful and the darkly cynical on Obsidian cancels both polar opposite attitudes out so that one is left with no cue which way to lean. In the void, the listener is free to take the subject matter at face value—what it means to them in their own context. In addition, Wiesenfeld’s lukewarm delivery of such lines on “Miasma Sky,” as well as throughout the album, belies the listener of feeling like they’re sitting in the attentive counselor’s chair.
Obsidian is at it’s most plausibly uncouth, though, when recalling nights spent in the sheets. However, Baths is able to pull off phrases like, “Nights you rolled over to introduce yourself/Nurse this erection back to full health” and “It’s not a matter of if you mean it/It’s only a matter of come and fuck me” because tracks like “Incompatible” and “No Eyes” are so well cushioned by the rest of the album’s open confessional stance. As a result, these lyrics are received as respectable honesty rather than unimaginative frankness. This is the aching beauty of Obsidian: its ability to be so matter-of-fact and reposition the taciturn as commonplace. There is no beam of sunlight between the tracks of Obsidian, but there is the serene rainfall at the close of “Miasma Sky,” the ginger clatter of a glass jar in the mist of “No Eyes” and other strategically inserted native sounds throughout Obsidian’s existential escapade that grounds us.