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Baths at Triple Rock, 6/5/13

Baths at Triple Rock, 6/5/13
Erik Hess

Baths
with Houses and D33J
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Tonight is a good night in Milwaukee!" So exclaimed Baths frontman, Will Wiesenfeld, Tuesday night at the Triple Rock. Which, of course, is in Minneapolis.

Oops.

It was a forgivable mistake, in the scheme of things. (After all, who can tell Midwestern cities apart?) But it was also emblematic of the strange, clashing energies that Wiesfenfeld brought to his band's performance: giddy, and sometimes nerdy, with his stage banter; dark, and often death-obsessed, with his music. In either case, Wiesenfeld fixed his heart firmly on his sleeve, indulging his every emotion. It was only natural he'd get swept up in the moment.

Not that the L.A. singer-composer hasn't had his reasons to get a little emotional. The past year or so has been a tumultuous one, as Wiesenfeld had a brush with death in the form of a nasty E.coli infection. That experience, in turn, colored the deeply-personal, baroque stylings of Obsidian, Baths' sophomore record, which was released just last month.


Unlike its predecessor, Cerulean, the new record is heavier on Wiesenfeld's lyrics, even if it keeps the bare ingredients of his spastic electronic sampling intact. The opening song of the night, "Worsening," did the perfect job of summing it all up, too: a dense, underwater beat that crashed and rattled along with gleeful abandon, while Wiesenfeld laid the melodrama on thick with his falsetto. "Never prayed, never paid any attention," he sang. "But then again, I still might try to die."
Baths at Triple Rock, 6/5/13
Erik Hess


Baths at Triple Rock, 6/5/13
Erik Hess

It was hard, in fact, to not detect a deliberate Keatsian streak, with the doubling allusions to nature and classical imagery, all wrapped up in a looming specter of death. Except that it was all filtered through Wiesenfeld's own grittier, openly homoerotic imagery -- and above all, his voice. In his better moments, that voice was ghostly and just a touch shaky, the right mix to lend the music an ominous uncertainty. But at others it came off affected, too heavy-handed with its emotional treatment or, well, like Xiu Xiu.

And that, by the way, was the other thing that Wiesenfeld wore on his sleeve last night: his influences. Particularly early in the night, before the danciest part of the set came along, it was all too easy to make direct comparisons to other bands. "Miasma Sky," for instance, had that familiar video game-sample feel from its recorded version, but it also sounded a lot like Postal Service or -- gasp! -- Owl City.
 
For whatever reasons, even with Wiesenfeld joined onstage by his guitarist, those influences felt less his own than on the albums. Once those connections had been made, it was hard to not keep hearing them. Even by the end of the night, with "No Eyes" appearing for the encore, the fingerprints of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" seemed to be all over it: in the industrial beat, or even in the emphasis on the phrase "fuck me."

Baths at Triple Rock, 6/5/13
Erik Hess

So it was a mixed bag, then.  But the set transcended its influences at times as well, usually when Wiesenfeld seemed most absorbed in the process of making his beats. "Lovely Bloodflow," for one, was almost joyous, while "Plea," which closed off the main set, added layers of guitar and keys that built gradually to a glitchy, spiraling finale.

Ironically, perhaps, Wiesenfeld was never more lost in the process than on the pair of instrumental tracks in the middle of the set. In fact, he was downright inspired, his voice almost chilling -- all wails and hoots. "That was pretty good," he beamed after one of them. "We made that up right now."


Then he paused, looking at his band mate, and added with a smirk: "I think I'm not supposed to say that, though."

Critics' Bias: I've read 19th century poetry. Never had E.coli, though.

The Crowd: College students. Like, all of them.

Overheard in the Crowd: "It's just... really abstract."

Random Notebook Dump: Houses were the second opener (after D33J), another electronic group that's been getting buzzed about lately in the indie press. If Baths' weren't exactly perfect, then it'd probably be fair to say that Houses were on the bland side -- inoffensively shapeless, a bit like Coldplay with a laptop.

Setlist:
Worsening
Miasma Sky
(Instrumental)
Lovely Bloodflow
Ironworks
(Instrumental)
Incompatible
?
Earth Death
?
Phaedra
Plea

Encore:
No Eyes

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