As such, chillwave is more about a mindset than anything else, and mindset is the main reason why Cerulean, the debut album of Will Wiesenfeld's newest project, Baths, doesn't fall into indie music's hottest mini-genre. Where his peers make music that sounds resigned or overwhelmed, Wiesenfeld sounds like he can barely contain his excitement.
Cerulean has a lot in common with chillwave. Its synths are often soft and sighing, its lyrics and vocals are wistful, a mix of mumbles and multi-tracking. But the album is marked, more than anything, by restless, overstuffed, often inspired drum programming; the album's snares don't snap so much as fritz; hi-hats come out trap-house fast; the beats will occasionally blitz through jungle-speed passages.
At first, Cerulean's sometimes irrepressible rhythms sound at odds with the choir of falsettos that waft across "Apologetic Shoulder Blades," or the strange, liquid echoes on "Plea." But with repeated listens, Wiesenfeld's drums start to do more than keep time. They are a manifestation of the young programmer's excitement, and an endearing counterweight to the fuzzy, hissy, soft-focus synths and keys. On songs like "Aminals" and "Lovely Bloodflow," it's hard not to get caught up in both, and the combined effect is thrilling.
Even in its more sedate, "chill" songs ("Departure"; "Rain Smell"), it's hard not to hear the influence of Daedelus, the veteran producer who personally introduced Wiesenfeld to the Los Angeles beat scientist scene. Daedelus has been smushing genres together for years, with a sense of whimsy that grates as frequently as it amazes, and for that reason alone he just might be the perfect mentor for Wiesenfeld. Cerulean can feel cracked, sad, withdrawn and overwhelmed, but it also never loses sight of how exciting it is to feel all those things at once.