BATHS @ THE BAKERY, SUNDAY MARCH 23
I take a flight to Perth on Thursday night, feeling like a bit of a fancy boy on Qantas and all. Not only do you get the cheese and crackers with your dinner, you get the bread roll and butter too – and as much red wine as you can balance in your feeble little plastic tumbler sitting on a fold-out table 40,000 feet in the sky. I view an episode of that ‘Redesign My Brain’ show where the charismatic Todd Sampson tries to soup up his neurons; after a month’s training he can memorise the order of a randomly shuffled deck of cards. Apparently juggling is incredibly good for brain function too; I make a mental note to take up juggling; I will soon forget. I decide to watch ‘Gravity’ – some people raved about it – it’s not very good, but it’s a real gas watching the action sequences as the plane wobbles through a bit of turbulence. The film concludes as the plane hits the tarmac; I nod at the attendants and stroll out into that weird footbridge tube that connects the plane to the airport. I always feel like a smooth bastard walking through that tube, having alighted the jet and begun a purposeful stride through a secret tunnel as if doing Something Very Important. This is inevitably followed by the feeling of being a dumb sucker, waiting for luggage to crawl out of its hidey-hole in the fluorescent foyer, waiting for it to float along the conveyor belt as I squint at it, trying to decide if it’s mine. Homeward bound: that timeless journey through Ascot, Burswood, et al, past the unnecessarily imported date palms that usher you towards the Bell Tower. No doubt Will Weisenfeld, aka BATHS, made a similar journey a few days later. Maybe the date palms felt strangely familiar and comforting to the LA-bred musician. Maybe he got to his hotel (do fairly-big-indie-musicians stay in “hotels?”) and sank into his warm immersive namesake, absorbed some sounds as per the favoured pastime that gave him his moniker, and maybe when he got out he found himself in a place called the Bakery, a place of sea containers, fake grass, murals, red velvet and hard black surfaces.
Quelling the silence and breaking the ice is MODESTY BLAZE, who you might know as Jo Lettenmaier, and who in any case you should know as a wonderful lady who one would assume had sold her soul in exchange for an endless supply of incredible tunes to whip out during radio shows and DJ sets. Well, you’d assume that except she has so much soul on display. As the bass and the snare slinks in, there’s no better way to start the night.
We drift down the street and grab a bit to eat. Upon our return the empty airspace inside the Bakery has shrunk considerably. Icy cool splashes of ale combat the rising net body heat. LEON OSBORN is playing now, but where is he? Ah, he’s at the DJ table, tucked away in the room’s far side, but a surreptitious live set is brewing. He can’t keep it a secret for long because his gliding, squelching, crunching and popping compositions bring all the boys and girls to his proverbial yard. These tunes are simultaneously dark and bright, glistening with the nostalgic erotic sweat-sheen of ‘90s RnB (there’s a Destiny’s Child remix towards the set’s end, if I remember correctly) and heavy with the heft of futuristic trap and moodily textured post-dubstep. Arms and hips across the room are pendulums in the night.
More sweet rhythms emerge from the decks of PATIENCE, aka Daniel Dalton, long-haired heartthrob of the dance music scene who’s responsible for this whole hootenanny via promo company ICSSC (“I Can’t Stand Still Club”). Then over to CATLIPS, the electronic production outlet of musician/composer Katie Campbell.
Truth be told I’ve been in a bit of a weird mood all night: I haven’t really been out in the world since getting back to Perth, mostly cooped up rehearsing for shows, and the bustling Sunday night room swimming with familiar, half-familiar and unfamiliar faces is a bit of a shock to the system. But with the percussive throb, clang and patter of CATLIPS’ irresistible beats, I am thrust into a state of sheer enjoyment. As with all the most affecting music, I forget myself; I become almost only a giant tympanic membrane. Katie’s warped and processed voice loops over her intoxicating drum motifs, vintage house basslines shifting steadily through the low-end. I move to the groove, and feel almost reborn.
Then my band Seams plays, and it feels a bit funny being up there with guitars and acoustic instruments and stuff after so much in the electronic vein this evening, but in any case I’m stoked it be playing, and it seems to go mostly OK. Another spell of goodness for our indefatigable resident DJs, then over to our Feature Presentation.
BATHS tonight is both Will Weisenfeld and his buddy Morgan Greenwood (from now defunct IDM-pop group Azeda Booth), expanding the possibilities of Baths’ usually-solo live show. While Will would once have been tied to his APC, drum machine, effects units et al, this is now mostly Morgan’s domain, opening things up for more a more kinetic delivery. They play a strong card early: the big, pumping, but fragile, “Miasma Sky.” Tracks like this took me a while to warm up to on record; I loved the production, the use of “diagetic sound” (never has a song been worsened by the addition of rain sounds), but the sort of chiptuney chords over techno beats with emotive, thin, falsetto pop vocals took things a bit too far into the “Postal Service” direction for my default tastes. Nevertheless, the record it’s featured on (Obsidian) has grown on me hugely and, what’s more, tunes like this take on a whole new life in the live setting. Bolder, deeper, dancier. I’m sure it’s not just my imagination, or the effect of having a big dense crowd in the room: the loudness and the delivery tonight reveal something brand new in Baths’ music, a fierce intensity bordering on the sort experienced while witnessing a metal set, but counterbalanced with sweet melody and fascinating textures. Plenty of recognisable tunes emerge, but with the duo setup allowing for increased experimentation and improvisation, songs often take strange and unrecognisable detours before return to a familiar form. At key moments throughout, Wiesenfeld’s voice rises to a ferocious, desperate scream; at others, it’s a whisper or – as per the rapturously received “Lovely Bloodflow,” a sweet choirboy carol. It all wraps up with a pounding and powerful rendition of “No Eyes,” a richly layered song that grows off a relentless stomp-and-snare a la Nine In Nails’ “Closer.” Similarly, it’s a sexually frank page in the Baths songbook, with the earwormy refrain: “It is not a matter of / if you mean it / It’s only a matter of / Come and fuck me.” Of course, Baths is never afraid to speak frankly through his lyrics, or to confront his own psychology, physicality, mortality. And it’s that honesty that makes the explosive, bellowed ending of the set ring so true. Scarcely in recent times has such lush, dense, beautiful and danceable production met such nuanced, candid, idiosyncratic vocal work. Put it all on the table in a dynamic live show, and you’ve got yourself an emotionally intense party. I’m glowing, inspired, slightly drained, and yet – deeply invigorated. Feel like I need a bath.