It's late in the year, about the time when music critics have finished their year-end lists and have begun to wait for Chicago-based Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums of 2011. This year, I'm most curious to see if Los Angeles' burgeoning beat scene scores a spot on their now-definitive list. I'm not holding my breath. The progeny of electronic wonder Flying Lotus have been damned by their familial association—they register as imitators instead of innovators—and the fascinating rhythms rattling out of the Airliner on Wednesday nights, when Low End Theory takes over the downtown space, have been given the requisite nod and subsequently ignored.
Maybe if Low End Theory hosted a club night in Lincoln Park instead of Lincoln Heights, L.A. artists like Samiyam, Jonwayne, and Teebs (Low End Theory regularls, all) would get some more love. Or, maybe their critics just haven't seen Baths yet.
A Baths live show will make you forget every limp laptop DJ set you've ever slouched through. Will Wiesenfeld, who performs both as Baths and Geotic, makes music he labels “maximalist'.” It is directly at odds with the sparse, cold-weather music from the Jaars and Blakes.
It's not just a sound, Baths is maximal in performance as well. To start a typical song, Wiesenfeld will crossfade up on his Akai MPD32, hit four effect buttons at once, start singing to get a vocal sample, adjust his glasses, twist two or three effect knobs to make the melody stutter, start singing, rinse, and repeat. His is a frenetic style, one that will make you think traditional musicians aren't working hard enough. To flesh out his sound even further, Wiesenfeld held auditions last month for a live drummer. Fabulous. Can't wait to hear live drums on the next Baths album and on the next tour.
Until then, you've got a modern one-man band that’s easily the most dynamic electronic act I've ever seen perform live. Baths plays the El Rey Theatre on Saturday, December 17. Even better, Raleigh Moncrief and Dntel will open the show. It’s a bill full of progressive electronic acts that aren't nearly as esoteric or pretentious as the genre itself sounds. I hope that the folks from Pitchfork are similarly impressed. Someone text Ian Cohen.
Photograph courtesy flickr/laviddichterman