Cerulean is the auspicious debut from Los Angeles’s Baths. Evolving out of Will Wiesenfeld’s varied [Post-Foetus] project and inspired by the energy of the city’s burgeoning beat scene, the record departs from both; an often warm, acoustic-fueled electronic music hews closer to the work of contemporaries like Toro Y Moi. Combining songwriting with self-sampling, raw musicianship with synthesized textures, and field recordings with propulsive beats, Baths packs a seething sound-cloud with bright moments and unexpected turns.
For evidence, look no further than album opener “Apologetic Shoulderblades,” where a swooning choir of vocals catches a wave of skittering percussion and rides forth in epic fashion. The effect is more baroque pop than bass thump-a digitally infused dust storm that sounds like vintage Broken Social Scene gone glitch. The equally eclectic “Lovely Bloodflow” spins rich gloom out of organic, Bookslike cut-and-paste and Baths’ strange, soulful crooning.
A general romanticism persists on Cerulean, both in its lushness of sound and in Baths’ lyrics as they capture the whimsy and wistfulness of relationships. On the taut, piano-driven “Love” Wiesenfeld sings of two lovers escaping under the cover of night, voice swaying and quavering Ã la Daniel Rossen in Department of Eagles. For “Aminals,” the album’s most unabashedly joyous track, Baths lets others do the talking, weaving children’s voices into a field of instruments first played live, then chopped into interlocking bits.
Baths excels at crafting thick, living compositions that, while dense, never sound needlessly busy. To this end he employs guitars, bass, various keys, snapping scissors, clicking pens, rustling blankets and more. On record, these sounds lose their origins, congealing into roiling melodic tracks like “Hall” and “Plea,” or delivering something stormy and ebullient, like late-album standout “You’re My Excuse to Travel.” In either case, Cerulean handily portrays Baths as a vital new talent unbound by genre and spurred on by song.