Wiesenfeld drew from his love of video games and comics.
Los Angeles-born Will Wiesenfeld, aka Baths, is known for stuttering electronic music that relies on buoyancy and infectious beats. Although it’s been four years since his sophomore album Obsidian, his music still revels in such energetic rhythms, and Romaplasm puts perhaps even more emphasis on fantastical lyricism. Across 12 songs, Wiesenfeld tells a handful of exceptional, adventurous yarns that capture the listener’s attention and sustain a range of moods from deceptively somber to bursting excitement and nerdy nostalgia. The result is a well-balanced album, with more muted tracks providing necessary breaks from the numerous, glitchy offerings that threaten to overload your ears just as they bewitch them with intricately layered electronics.
Wiesenfeld drew from his love of video games and comics for this album, and the opening trio makes this abundantly obvious. His childlike imagination conjures images of aliens and daydreams of space travel. On the sugary synth track that is “Yeomen,” Wiesenfeld coos, “Left my life on the ground/ To dance with you in the clouds.” “Extrasolar” romanticizes leaving everything behind for a starry adventure “off-world.” With the most literal title in the series, “Abscond” makes the listener imagine a young Wiesenfeld playing castle siege in his back yard. There’s an enchanting blend of nostalgia, romanticism and fantasy on display throughout, and it makes for a charming album.
Sharing a vocal style with Owl City’s Adam Young, Wiesenfeld matches high-pitched singing — frequently falsetto — with layered, swirling synths and blippy 8-bit lines. Certain tracks feature a frenetic, jittery synth line, such as “Adam Copies” and “Out.” Here vocals take a backseat to trippy electronics. “Superstructure” is a milder take on this fevered speed, with the bulk of the song operating at a more normal tempo while looped around breakneck synth. There are moments on Romaplasm though, as on the atmospheric “Lev” and opener of piano-falsetto “I Form,” when Wiesenfeld catches his breath. The slower electronic decay on “Human Bog” corresponds to his self-evaluative lyrics, examining gender expression and sexuality. While the bulk of this album is unfettered, childlike joy, Wiesenfeld does periodically speak to his sexuality and identity struggles, most notably as he sings “I’m queer in a way that works for you.”
It’s not all electronics, though. “I Form” features a somber piano line, backed by analog crackle paired with Wiesenfeld’s emotional delivery. “Coitus” opens with industrial clanging and Wiesenfeld’s breathy vocals are backed by atmospherics, tinkling keys and a pared back beat. “Wilt” most prominently features acoustics, as well as a bizarrely deep vocal that surprises and almost disturbs in the midst of these sweetly enthusiastic tracks.
However, there’s a reason Romaplasm ends on the glitzy, frenetic “Broadback.” Its ecstatic synths and high-pitched vocals define the album, and hook-laden tracks like the closer, “Yeoman,” “Extrasolar” and “Out” that will work their way into your brain. One thing’s for sure, these earworms will fit right in with compulsive retro gaming and “brows[ing] monitors all night.”