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You briefly turn your back on a scene and everything changes. Dubstep was (seemingly) pegged until 2010 albums from the likes of Skream and Rusko made it clear that the once-gloomy genre had taken substantial steps towards an accessible, mainstream-friendly sound since Burial got a few bookies sweating with his 2008 Mercury nomination. Chillwave now covers a slew of bedroom-based individuals, purveyors of luscious layers and fuzzy atmospherics–see, in particular, Washed Out and Neon Indian. But Baths, aka Los Angeles resident Will Wiesenfeld, has gone and tinkered somewhat with the tried-and-tested formula, and now we have a record that's got a foot in two slightly different stylistic camps.
On the left, those chillwave (glo-fi, dream-pop, whatever) protagonists; Baths' closest parallel probably South Carolina's Toro Y Moi. On the right, the skew-whiffy beat-doodles of Brainfeeder don Flying Lotus and his disciples in playfully skittering sounds (see also: Lorn, HudMo, Oriol). The combination could have resulted in a chaotic long-player, but Wiesenfeld has reined in anything too buck-wild to deliver an immersive experience that, while offering little that's not already been heard before, is by turns incredibly beautiful and beguilingly intricate.
The relative success of Cerulean–the title a variety of the colour blue–bodes well for the future of solo producers of Wiesenfeld's sonic persuasion. Whereas older dance sub-genres such as techno and drum'n'bass have largely stalled artistically, marked evolution rare and contemporary albums of note rarer still, the still-evolving nature of this field suggests its best is yet to come. Baths' debut stretches the sides of the best-heard-horizontally scene from which it stems, but never does it breach them–as such, it's a record that relies on the listener having past experience of its maker's peers for its flickers of ambition to become apparent. It's a signpost towards something over the horizon, something wonderfully new; but that something isn't completely clear yet.
At its most intoxicating, Cerulean is wonderfully escapist fare–track four (a heart shape) builds from a sparse piano intro into an enveloping piece of melancholic electro-pop, Hall is both perplexing and lulling, and the penultimate Plea features some of the most arrestingly sweet-and-sour lyrics of the year. Even at its most perfunctory–Maximalist and Aminals echo Clark and Bibio respectively–it's never dull. What Wiesenfeld must do next is take the language he has mastered, his accent impeccable, and use it to say something truly unexpected.--Mike Diver
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