Venue: Home Club, Singapore
Date: 9th March 2014
Promoter: Symmetry Entertainment
Review by: Fadhil R.
Special thanks: Aaron, and the Symmetry Entertainment team
“You guys must obviously know how to party, as sweat from my face keeps dripping on my stuff,” says Will Wiesenfeld, also known as Baths as his stage name, halfway through their cosy set at Home Club. Well technically, he’s right. Small flakes are being dislodged from the ceiling, floating down inside the venue like confetti during Baths’ set, but with all due respect to the small acquainted attendance, the dislodging was more likely the result of Baths’ relentless growls and screams in the midst of songs rather than the bass-heavy sound system set up.
Baths’ sound, displaying a knowledge and reverence for classic house music sprinkled with modern variants of garage and two-step, has proven to be a potent blend that has garnered him an increasingly fervent and devoted following, as well as commercial and critical acclaim. So this act is a victory lap of sorts, celebrating the album’s success. Baths played virtually all the tracks from Obsidian.
Positioned on two rigs across from each other, on stage Baths’s set up has gradually added elements to their live shows over the past two years, with his partner on the other rig augmenting their tracks with live electric guitar, keyboards, and a bass. Apart from Baths making an entrance with only his fitness shorts on, it was the appearance of the Baths face image on the small screen above that indicated the show was getting underway. Soon after taking the stage to rapturous applause, he went straight to work with his mate taking the lead vocals on “Maximalist,” triggering the first of many crowd swaying, followed by the addictive “Miasma Sky.” For the most part, the tracks retained its shape, occasionally adding instrumental flourishes. Bath’s trademark, though, is the tension and release of bass and they deployed this skill to maximum effect throughout, knowing when to decrease, amplify, and distort its presence.
One track titled “Lovely Bloodflow” seemed to boast a more robust low-end than on record, and similarly it was so immersed in the vocals that somehow I wonder why no collaborations have been made by Baths after all these years. Conversely, Baths’ biggest song was supposed to benefit from fading out and gradual re-integration of bass with a track like “Animals”. Well, it never came. The only knock on the show was the complete absence of any dancing from the crowd being available to up the tempo.
Like I said, it’s notoriously difficult to get the entire and whole of Home Club up and dancing. Yet, someone from the crowd kept hurling song titles to get attention perhaps. Apart from all that, Will made it seem effortless, as he toyed with the flexibility of electronic music performance in what’s typically a rather inflexible venue. It’s not a sell-out show I must say, and the venue is barely at full capacity, however creating a sense of expectation as the crowd waits for something truly magical to take the stage. When Baths stays low on stage, figuring out his gadgets as sustained organ chords begin to drift over the audience before being reinforced by the powerhouse synth pads of “Worsening”, the opening track of their most recent album Obsidian. The chords really demand the audience’s attention, immediately showcasing Bath’s ability to craft huge layered sounds made expressly for big sound systems.
Baths stood above the rest because his compositional touch was so instinctive: deftly coaxing complex emotions from machines while employing acoustic instrumentation sparingly to devastating effect. Throughout the 2000s he built on his reputation for sonic storytelling, culminating in his exquisite 2010 album Cerulean. Yet with Obsidian, Will appears to have hit his prime. The balance is slightly skewed and he all but drowns his knack for emotive instrumentation in the kind of introspective production that marked his formative period, but he hasn’t strayed too far from his musical territory. That said, his work recently has more energy and I can’t help the feeling he’s playing safe by not fully embracing his orchestral exploration because Baths is better than this. But on the other hand, his ideas splintered off into a whole lot of directions, which clearly displayed his abilities in his live set.
Baths wasted no time in dishing out the old favourites as the familiar pulse of “Departure” and “Seaside Town” whips the crowd into motion. Home Club’s entrancing light visuals also kick into effect at this point as a pair of giant hands is projected onto the set of screens directly behind the musicians, arranged in such a way as to create a false three-dimensional effect, allowing movement to be generated between the still images being used.
There were sing along moments, with Will’s soulful vocals lending an R&B element to the performance, which is warmly accepted by the crowd on that night. Perhaps it’s the fact that the weekend is drawing to a close that Baths seem to be holding back some of their more dance-oriented tracks as Will and his mate start into another vocal track from Obsidian entitled “No Eyes”.
The visuals at this point also reach a climax with mesmerizing black and white illustrations giving way to scattered fragments gliding through a three dimensional space. It’s an impressive sight to behold when the main lights come up in the club as less than a hundred fans cheer for Baths to continue as he starts to pack up. When they do, they opt for two more of the soulful, down-tempo tracks from their recent album, before going out on a high note with one of the best tracks from their latest release, “No Past Lives”. A fitting way to play out the night as Will picks out the melody on his keyboard over the echoing vocal samples and melancholic chord progression. His impact on the Bath’s new material is undeniable and for fans of his, this gig certainly won’t disappoint. It’s a far cry from some of the older material and perhaps doesn’t allow for the same sort of intensity in a live setting. No second encore from Baths but then again, if that’s the kind of thing you’re after you can always go catch a Darkside gig and enjoy the best of both worlds.
On a side note, the most energetic section of the night actually came from our homegrown duo Weish and Din, also known as .gif who made the most out of their opening set. Their show can be summed up in four words I heard while standing in the crowd: “Fuck, that was good.” I knew their performance was going to be different from the textured blips and click. Weish started looping monastic chants and wild nature noises into her microphone. By the time Din’s rhythmic contractions became noticeable, they were already increasing in frequency, reaching an almost unbearable tension. Their tracks seemed to have the right idea all the time, letting the sounds wash over the crowd. I only enjoyed their fluid bass, moving everyone as one. If I took away anything from my weekend with Baths and .gif, it’s a good thing we’ve got them to often provide the needed vibe.