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Baths @ the Fine Line!

Apr 08, 2018

It was another great night of music at the Fine Line Music Cafe on Saturday night with SASAMI, No Joy, and Baths!  


Starting of the night, we heard from SASAMI. Sasami Ashworth is a prolific LA music-maker, perhaps best known as the former synth queen of Cherry Glazerr. These days, she flies solo under the moniker SASAMI, and she gave a very bad ass and very energetic performance and has clearly developed a very layered and lush style all her own. 


Then we had Canadian band No Joy, a long favorite in the shoegaze revival. Jasamine White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd are at the foundation of this very structured wall of shoegaze sound. But this is not the homogenous droning shoegaze of the 90’s. Sure there was reverb to spare tonight, but White-Gluz’s alluring vocals led the crowd through the wall of echoing grungy guitar, making for a very enticing performance.

Baths has been a go-to artist for me when I’m looking for a tangible expression of my own despair, and thats why I was so surprised that this show did shake me to my core and leave me prostrate on the floor. With their most recent album, Romaplasm (2017), Baths has come a long way from the mostly instrumental—or rather “lyricless”—pop beats of Cerulean (2010) and the darkly expressive and harrowing Obsidian (2013). However, I am happy to say that throughout all of the clear development in their sound, they still retain a very genuine DIY vibe, giving them, as frontman Will Wiesenfeld charmingly warned, “a lot of room to f--- up.”
A note on the aforementioned frontman: wow. He brought a LOT of emotion and excitement to the set with his fiery vocals: a gentle wavering falsetto permeating through his vocoder and consummating in these bursts of passionate howling that left the hairs this reviewer’s neck standing up. Coupled with his gimbling/gyrating dancing through the foggy phthalo of the stage, I found myself torn between wistful reflection and bodily thrashing. I would seriously get taken away by the music only to be brought back by the sheer emotion of Wiesenfeld’s voice hitting some ridiculously high note with a degree confidence rarely seen. His stage presence was enchanting yet surprisingly mirthful; in-between songs he capitalized on the universal ardor for “the peanut butter baby vine,” and he also genuinely apologized for calling us Milwaukee in a performance several years ago. Don’t worry Will, we forgive you. You foxy man, you.  
My standout song(s) are “Human Bog” and “Extrasolar,” both off of his new album Romaplasm. The interplay in these songs between Wiesenfeld’s vocals and Morgan Greenwood on the synths was incredibly compelling to witness. On “Human Bog” Greenwood created this torrent of murky boggy synth runs, and Wiesenfeld would drudge through the sound with heavily punctuated lyrics, “Buttoning poise on younger boys avoiding their father,” and then seemingly pull above the storm and from a place of total vulnerability belt out “I'm queer in a way that's failed me, everyone alive live fuller lives than me.” “Extrasolar” is a decidedly more ambient song, but they layering of synths and the echoing vocals created such a depth of sound that it created the impression that some stunning cosmic event was occurring onstage, portending some positive shift of fates. 

Its hard to discern the breadth of sounds and samples that their performance was built on, with hints of both viscerally organic and recognizable notes and purely synthetic alienating tones. It was amazing to hear the sheer abundance of sounds tamed and organized into what seemed to me a symphony. I also noticed a vaguely cinematic vibe to their performance. Somehow the synths seemed to do just as much storytelling as the lyrics, which at times—like on their song “Plea”—were so overwhelming and personal that, even though they were delivered with eyes closed, connected with every person in the Fine Line. 
PSA: this is probably a show you’ll want to bring earplugs to. Baths really know how to bring the house down: with a lot of bass.

Andrew Schoonover
Photos by Evelyn Staats