Baths
Romaplasm


4.5
superb

Review

by luci USER (25 Reviews)
December 4th, 2017 | 77 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: queer in a way that works for you

A series of conversations between users plane and luci.

plane
Romaplasm is soooo goooooOOD

luci
will listen soon!

he sounds so comfortable on the new one. confident. each song is a min too long for me though but i like it

*later that day*

wait. this is amazing. Will with the double aoty

plane
dude yes!

i think he operated in a lot of way self-aware feminine gay men do, in being a little self-deprecating and his art sometimes reflected this dark internal struggle of being as happy as he constructs himself re: social media but not feeling totally comfortable being outward and open

he retweeted something that i ended up discussing on sputnik, i'll pull it up

"Many of us who are LGBTQ go through a second adolescence because our first (5-18 yo) is about suppressing identity. So when we do get into our 20's we make A LOT of mistakes that most attribute to younger people because we never got to be younger people in our true identity."

he gets to be the rambling, weird pop romantic we expect from Owl City et al but rarely get so queerly centered. like, how many times did i have to reposition a Postal Service song to be about me and my boy relationships. but he's also infinitely more discerning a pop songwriter and has all the weird tastes that make his music feel personal and evocative

luci
Love those takes. I went into the first listen with that quote you left on sputnik. Was most struck by how self-indulgent the album is but in a very self-affirming way, taking pride in deep fantasies of a more technicolor world; catching up for time and energy lost in the "Human Bog." In depicting the lifeless he enhances the vibrant, and ultimately lets that "queer child" win in their second adolescence. You feel happy for him and leave the record uplifted.

I also see him getting real pensive in trying to clarify those emotions we can't quite put into words. Feels like there's a treasure trove to unlock here. Some are being too dismissive, but that could be 'cause they're "basic straight motherfuckers." The album is queer as fuck, and needs to be approached from that angle.

plane
yes, Ali! yes. total agreement

luci
I also find it fascinating how Abysma and Romaplasm both explore domestic pleasures but from radically different angles. Abysma is less about aloneness than what it’s like to live with yourself - the relationship with self in a domestic context. It evokes the small joys of life – sun rays glinting through blinds, the first bite into cold cereal, stroking your pet’s head – and how those moments amount to a sense of contentment. These are typically private satisfactions, so Wiesenfeld leaves them unsaid.

Romaplasm in contrast is inspired by “books, anime, videogames and comics,” the feverish interests that occupy Wiesenfeld’s indoor life. The dazzlingly immersive worlds he builds are essentially a defense of this lifestyle. And what does a fanboy do when their hobby becomes a topic of discussion. They ramble and gush, thousands of hours of pleasure meeting the confines of a conversation. So yes, Wiesenfeld overexerts himself with the vocals, but I liken the effect to that spark when you realize a person is divulging one of their passions. It’s an invigorating feeling.

plane
dude, that is the review in miniscule. nailed it!

it's such a weird album for me to approach as a critic right now mainly because of how i seem to have to sculpt my criticisms in reaction to the consensus otherwise. like, how do you deflect or debate a criticism like "annoying" or "loss of emotion"

i hate to play the gay card, but... there seems to be a certain way queerness is meant to be comfortably relatable. which i think is even more troubling! the way we reject things, or are rejected, seems much more fundamentally different than how we embrace things, or are embraced! let alone in that divide between homosexuality or heterosexuality.

why i think the album is so strong is that Baths makes no concessions about his queerness, and it allows him to break that filter, just as you said. it also sounds... fucking fantastic. where are these "flat" vocals. as lively and expressive as anything this side of Kaputt.

i can't imagine the moving parts of the instrumentals feeling like such a self-contained world if it weren't for the way he colors in the available spaces with his outsized persona.

luci
Totally. That's why I'm irked by some of the reactions to "Human Bog," that it's being held up as as an emotional apex in a record that's "lacking emotion." That's a strange reading to me because it's clear that it’s meant to give purpose to the vibrancy of the rest of the music.

plane
i hate that slick irony of liking the one demure track with the fucking line "queer in a way that works for you"

people will always relate (willingly so) with someone’s failures before their successes

but damn if these boys don't even fucking try

and i think

it's because

it

is

really

gay

i tried really hard to single out the tracks people wouldn't like on my listen through, and then had to dig through their comments anyway because they were all uniformly awesome

luci
Damn, you pinned that lyric down. It's truly a song that will resonate differently for queer people, and that difference might be irreconcilable. It reads like this album's "Incompatible" but with the repulsed intimacy replaced with an existential quagmire familiar to the queers. I'm most struck by the placement, how it's forcibly wedged between an ecstatic opening trio and the most unhinged track. Moments of euphoria never seem to make the fog clear; reckoning with the dejection is the only way to move forward. There's a natural link with Arca's S/T: both artists find that indulging their trauma and voicing its truth is the best form of healing.

And I love that explanation of how the momentum hinges on his active vocals. The tracks wouldn't be as immersive if they were used sparingly. Also intrigued by the fundamental difference you state between acceptance/rejection. We wish for a process of inversion where the negatives of queerness flip to positives but it always feels like separate streams when we are "accepted."

About to hear his Dream Daddy theme song. Bet it sounds like anything on this album.

plane
I love what you said about the fog... especially right now, in regards to LGBT issues and self-actualization being a huge focus, there’s this new mode of “progress” where we recognize the fog for what it is (omnipresent) and our progress isn’t going to lift the fog but instead allow us to chart a map through it.

I like that we could link it to Arca, but my thoughts on that album are much darker. He casts a light on the world and what he found was a black hole. Will is smart to chart his little world from the inside, 'cause the ground is falling out from beneath us.

This Dream Daddy song, holy shit, he went full licensed stock music. n2 it

luci
I'm thinking of how queer kids use videogames as an early site of exploration: daring to click that flirt interact with a same-sex character in The Sims; choosing a different gender for your World of Warcraft hero. There's a sense of reclamation with how Wiesenfeld imbues his pixelated platformer scenes with queer stories, offering an alternate take on an alternate world he used to escape in.

"Left my life on the ground / To dance with you in the clouds"

"Yeoman" is perfect. That 8-bit synth solo after the first chorus, the stunning instrumental breaks, his half-rap cadence. I love the separation in the sonic field; so much clarity between the different parts. The building blocks are apparent and it's better for it.

plane
I would be inclined to agree! It's a wonderful "coming out" for the record, a no-nonsense (save for the intentional narrative-bound leap into space) rundown on the checklist of themes and songwriting techniques that will get repurposed over the rest of the record. Will has talked a little about the record being written in part as if world-building, which is wonderfully on-brand for the nerd he posits of himself on his Twitter and other places, and so it makes sense that he would introduce that idea out the gate. Not only that, but he begins the record with the word "Man" and then constructs this fanciful retreat from this world to find a better one, which suggests a newfound confidence in not only making queer music but finding and replicating the joy there.

Yikes, not to insinuate that he wasn't making queer music, but..... Obsidian.

luci
I find it interesting how he creates a parallel between these extrasolar explorations and the experience of first entering gay bars and other queer spaces. "Meet attendance and meet new men / Gaily browse a thousand vendors" fits both scenarios in this song. And later in the record when he reimagines going out to the gay bar as a choose-your-adventure platform game. Fantasy and reality blur throughout the record; both are depicted as heightened sensory experiences.

plane
It's a clever admission of the ill-defined parameters of the queer experience, but an almost intrinsic & understood culture despite that.

luci
The opening trio is such a technicolor burst of melody and feeling. Although before the interjection of "Human Bog" we have the clearest statement of hardship yet: "You're the ire of your father but the other half of me."

Again, I'm struck by the placement of this song.

“Everyone alive live fuller lives than me" works for both the queer experience and the secluded gamer lifestyle.

plane
It must be said that this album is sequenced to perfection; how that opening can be seen as a triptych that effectively sets up ideas explored further: exploration; repression; acceptance. All of which comes to a head in a moment of self-actualization on "Human Bog."

Ali, wow! What a point to make. "I'm queer in a way that's failed me" is the line that precedes "Everyone alive..." and suggests internalized shame about the kind of gay experience Will is having.

luci
Yes, and "Adam Copies" is definitely reactive to the realizations of that song. Burying the thoughts through full investment in console escapism. The lyrics read as jumbles of action commands, devoid of feeling. If you chase the high hard enough in unlocking that 100% achievement you can push those real life struggles away for a while.

I'm still parsing out how "Human Bog" relates to "Wilt," which feels in a sense like a sister song. Both use a naturalistic metaphor to describe apathy/lifelessness.

"I'm not enough of anything" stings. I take that to mean how queer people tend to not have role models in life, so when it comes to assessing themselves as partners, sons, siblings there's no sense of completion.

plane
Oh man, that is dark. And not unfounded. The song seems to be about the situational shifting of one's personality to acclimate, which can be a mode of surviving, strategically repositioning yourself to exist invisibly (fear of reprove, violence, both). But this also sheds yourself of a continuous, stable identity. Fluid, but not, because "fluid" suggests the ability to be all things to you, for you, at once, not selectively for others.

luci
Very true. I like how "Adam Copies" never feels satisfying. It pushes as hard as it can but never reaches a state of completion. It's like a racing game scene where you never reach the finish line.

I can't make sense of the lyrics on "I Form" honestly, but all the words sound great.

plane
I think.. it is.. losing his virginity. First gay experience.

“I'm sixteen and I'm unit / our instruments can do it.”

luci
Yes, that lyric sticks out. The resurgent moment in the latter half of the song is amazing.

"Out" is another highlight of this record. I find it interesting that the song is lyrically set in the present (observations while in the club) while the music video is all about the buzzing excitement of going to the club.

plane
Do you think he approves of the culture. The lyrics seem to suggest a certain reticence to give himself over completely, which could be construed again as a certain self-repression based on defining his ill-givings on stereotypes aimed either at or against him.

luci
It's purposefully tricky and ambiguous I think. He's willing to adapt himself to the demands of the culture: “the lengths I go to get held onto.”

plane
I agree, but mainly because there is a third(!) reading about how going "Out" suggests you haven't found someone yet to spend the time in. Here is a space to meet and feel safe, but it's the same high that attracts people back away from creating something meaningful and long-lasting.

"Walls lined in every color of every iris of every lover."
“A pattern and endless snow.”

luci
I like that reading, and that “Out” lyric is amazing. There's always that flash in the midst of sexual pursuit where you remember everyone you've slept with. And that history dictates who you tend to be pursuing.

plane
"Out" is just a-mazing. We haven't talked enough yet about Will's production on this album, because it's in this wordier architecture that we see just how far he has come. He plays with verse/chorus in a way that suggests subcomponents completing and forming to create illustrative textures. "Out" being the best example, and a great single for it.

luci
Let's definitely get back to that after we talk about "Wilt.” This song keeps eluding me, but I feel it's important.

plane
You linked "Wilt" to "Human Bog," but its brother is "Out." An inability to find satisfaction with an end game, but will exploit the pursuit all the same.

luci
It speaks to succumbing to vices (whether that be substance abuse or pornography) but the beat lends the song a natural trajectory. The song feels like engaging in negative behaviors but in "moderation." It doesn't total you but you don't feel whole or satisfied.

plane
Yes! There's this sense of "I just wanna be able to do this any time I want, even if it's just once," but even that reasoning means you have to sacrifice something about yourself or dignity, especially for people constantly wanting for companionship.

luci
I'm unsure of how “Coitus” fits in with the rest of the record, or the tracks it's sequenced in between. It's lovely though.

Okay I found the link to "Wilt": “And if I am out of bloom and lack your rain / I beg you, lay it down on me.”

plane
It's the consummation! Gritty, not perfectly realized, but intimate all the same. A shared, beautiful experience between lover, Will, author, listener.

luci
Love that description. Excited for the upcoming track: “Broadback” is nuts. It’s a return to the fantasy narrative of the opening tracks but even more exuberant. Love how the synth melody tracks his vocal pattern. He's in perfect unison with the instrumentals on this one.

plane
He fortifies his performance, so to speak. In one aspect, it's a swooning, romantic plea from a loved one to their soldier called upon to war, worthy of a Greek epic. But it's also a call for caution in a world that needs powerful voices for the marginalized, but that are still in danger of violence for their outspokenness.

It's a little selfish. "I don't want you to die!" but as it is written, we are to understand Broadback as the type to defend their honor and go to battle for what they believe. But it's also a spirited championing of the same. So many layers!

He really went all out on this album. So warm and prickly, full of action and romance.

luci
Yes! He takes a small scene and uses it to illuminate big sentiments. Also tongue-in-cheek at the end with "I'd make a horrid widower / You better come back alive." There's an audiobook/visual novel element to these songs as well.

plane
Music for an Unrealized In-Game Cutscene

luci
Exactly. So is "Superstructure" the only extraneous song. I'm playing it again.

plane
Hardly! It's the queer flight to the city!

luci
"But if his wristwatch finds your cheekbone" is a reference to that album cover (which is excellent). How does the album title tie into the work for you. Here's his own words on it:

“Explaining how he channelled frenetic energy into this record in ‘plasma’ and the title is a made-up portmanteau of romantic philosophy, he added: “I just wanted something that was stronger, but then also at the same time way more in touch with where my heart is actually at... a little pocket universe where all the things that fall under that banner can live and coexist.”

plane
I took it to be a clever portmanteau on the old adage "Rome wasn't formed in a day," suggesting the album is the realization of building that world.

Welp, nevermind! Tried to single out "Roma," which, who would know that was roma-ntic, I mean come on.

There's a certain guardedness to the album in respect to its pop aspirations. There is real work to be had memorizing these lyrics and the melodies.

luci
Yes. Cerulean was praised for the intuitiveness of its melodies but this record demands effort from both the artist and listener. It all works though, and the exhilaration is unparalleled in his discography.

plane
He weaves through the melodies with a disarming ease (and I find any criticism of the "flatness" to his vocals to be a tad ridiculous), curlicues that suggest a mercurial understanding of influences as far-ranging as house music, J-pop anime intros, The Postal Service.

luci
Love that remark. And the forthrightness is disarming. He fully reconciled with his queer self and in that outward projection he's no longer afraid of "too much."

plane
Like, let's just bring up Owl City while we are at it, because the problem was never the genre, but the talent. Romaplasm would not exist without these forebears, and it's exciting to note for a variety of reasons. First: this explicitly queer album exists in tandem with those records, not as some gay alternative, which suggests that Baths is another important step forward for representation that acknowledges and transcends the boundaries that define it. And second: because we deserve pop music this articulate and FUN.

Because even if a straight artist made this (ha!) we'd still be, like, wow what EXQUISITE TASTE and beautiful, airy synths you've compiled into resplendent earworms.

A levee broke with Abysma and we are reveling downstream.

...and fin



Recent reviews by this author
Trudge No More MotivationInjury Reserve By The Time I Get To Phoenix
Slayyyter Troubled ParadiseLeafar Legov Mirror
Slayyyter SlayyyterWeyes Blood Titanic Rising
user ratings (72)
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
Conmaniac (3.5)
oh love...



Comments:Add a Comment 
luci
December 4th 2017


12844 Comments


always a pleasure to chat with lew

Conmaniac
December 4th 2017


27694 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

u bois making me feel bad for not liking this as much as you ahah. only skimmed thru half of this but it's a cool way to do a lil review

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


4052 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

A plane and Lucid review! I wish the two of you still reviewed semi-regularly, this is seriously fantastic. I do think you're a tad harsh towards the album's detractors, though I do appreciate the defence, and it introduces an important perspective from which the two of you tackle the album, so I understand its purpose. Great work all round, I adore this album.

ramon.
December 4th 2017


4186 Comments


this review is hella gay

Astral Abortis
December 4th 2017


6731 Comments


Hella

TheWrenKing
December 4th 2017


1718 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

hell yea

TheWrenKing
December 4th 2017


1718 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

even better than i remember

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


4052 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Indeed, that makes sense. I appreciate you for these conversation reviews.

Jots
Emeritus
December 4th 2017


7562 Comments


2 beautiful minds. I’ve seen this approach from plane but not from lucid. was nice. can’t comment further as I have one foot out the door but looking forward to a more engaged read l8er

Chortles
December 4th 2017


21494 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

what a wonderful dialogue

Gyromania
December 5th 2017


37188 Comments


Worthy of a greek epic jfc

ArsMoriendi
December 5th 2017


41174 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Not gay enough of a review

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
December 5th 2017


32053 Comments


This would have been a wonderful podcast. Nicely done you 2.

Gyromania
December 5th 2017


37188 Comments


Idk, why are you so god damn pretentious?

Gyromania
December 5th 2017


37188 Comments


And lol at you "hating" me. That's a little intense even for you. Sorry for critiquing you instead of stroking your ego. I already told ali i think some of the discussion here was great, and i thought a lot more of it was tangential highbrow nonsense. Could do without all the mutual masturbation

luci
December 5th 2017


12844 Comments


get your anti-intellectual ass out of our thread pls

ramon.
December 5th 2017


4186 Comments


i think mutual masturbation between two men 4.5ing a highly gay album (should this review be trusted) is sorta expected

Gyromania
December 5th 2017


37188 Comments


Interesting that the self appointed intellects can have such a sophisticated expression of themselves and then act like total babies when i call out a pretentious quote

ramon.
December 5th 2017


4186 Comments


fuck yeah america

Gyromania
December 5th 2017


37188 Comments


Well Lewis, that's fine. For the record i do think you're brilliant when you aren't talking out of your ass.

You probably "hate" me because I'm not the most approachable or pleasant user these days, but I'm pretty sure we used to get along well and have had some great discussions in the past



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2023 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy