Geotic - Abysma Album Review
In 2013, Will Wiesenfeld released Obsidian through his most well-known project, Baths, and it was among the most underrated records of the year; a harrowing glitch-hop album that perfectly blended ethereal electronics and vocals with brooding beats and production. Since then, Wiesenfeld’s trajectory for his Baths project has been hard to pin down. He released a sparser sounding follow up to Obsidian in 2014 with the Ocean Death EP and scored the soundtrack for the web series Bee and Puppycat.
Wiesenfeld has instead chosen to be more prolific under his experimental/ambient pseudonym Geotic, but to much less critical or commercial acclaim. Though strong conceptually, the three records Wiesenfeld has dropped under Geotic since Obsidian have lacked Wiesenfeld’s personal and emotional touch that had made him a favorite in the glitch-hop scene.
But with Abysma, Wiesenfeld seems to have recovered what made Obsidian beloved among his fans. In a way, Abysma seems to be the optimistic answer to Obsidian, utilizing Wiesenfeld’s distinct electronic textures and emotive production style to create an ambient album that feels mysterious yet serene. Though a Wiesenfeld return to his Baths project for a true successor to Obsidian would be nice, Abysma at its weakest makes the wait mildly easier and at its best serves as a truly unique moment in ambient music in 2017.
From the opening track “Sunspell,” Wiesenfeld establishes the album's upbeat sound that harkens back to his breakout debut album Cerulean, with mellow synth chords creating a canvas for the main electronic riffs that pulse throughout the track. There’s a distinct vaporwave influence as synth lines sweep in and out of the tracks five-minute runtime, with a downtempo beat that grounds the song in an earthier feel than usually found on these kinds of tracks.
And while these sounds sneak their way into most of the tracks on the album, Wiesenfeld gives each track a distinct style to give the album an adept sense of progression for an ambient album. Tracks like “Actually Smiling,” “Nav,” and “Billionth Remnant” do this particularly well, incorporating Wiesenfeld’s unmistakable vocal stylings into momentary snippets of melody. They add an organic feel to the soundscapes, and Wiesenfeld is smart to keep them to a minimum so they don’t take too much away from the electronic sonic textures.
While the downtempo beats help to keep the listener grounded and maintain interest, in a way they act as an unwanted life vest keeping the listener from drowning in Weisenfeld’s expertly crafted oceans of sound where Abysma shines the most. “Vaulted Ceiling, Painted Sky” gives the listener a glimpse of what a record without the downtempo beats may have sounded like, with Weisenfeld removing the beat around the 2:00 minute mark to let the listener pleasantly drown away in the track’s swirling pulses before pulling them back out at the 2:30 mark.
Abysma ends with “Valiance,” easily Weisenfeld’s best track since Obsidian. Crooked violin synths glaze over a brightly textured soundscape of pulses. The beat remains unobtrusive, with the bass synth providing a warm sound stage for the tracks jovial and angular glitches. Weisenfeld’s production chops really shine during the song’s climax, somehow balancing five to seven synth layers at a time without one overpowering the others.
Abysma is not without its flaws however. Beyond the beats often taking up too much of the soundstage, the track “Laura Corporeal” contrasts just a hair too much stylistically with the rest of the album. Weisenfeld’s vocals take center stage over a rather basic electronic beat and soundscape that feels tiresome rather than building or progressing the song in any fashion.
And what’s even odder is that the track “Perish Song,” which shows up just two songs later on the album, sounds like another take on this style, but done with care and good mixing. Wiesenfeld holds the vocals until the climax and pairs the vocal melody well with a piano based track rather than an electronics heavy track.
These shortcomings don’t take away from the album much as a whole however, and only begin to come to light after repeated listens. Abysma, like most ambient records, takes a while to grow on the listener as they become more attuned to the small intricacies Weisenfeld has tucked away in these tracks. It’s an album that’s made for the listener to get lost in, and serves as a hopeful readjustment for Weisenfeld towards a mature evolution of his sound. While it falls short of living up to the masterful Obsidian, Abysma seems to be sowing the seeds for a more beautiful record yet to come.
Chandler Copenheaver is a junior majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Civic and Community Engagement. To contact him, email email@example.com.