His Ghostly debut ‘Abysma’ is a meditation on the charms of the great indoors.
Will Wiesenfeld enjoys the indoors. His Baths project—name after his childhood love of long soaks—has made this clear over the years. On his most recent single under the moniker he sang of the overwhelming possibilities of the "Big World" outside your front door. Years before, on another single, he outlined the pure pleasures of lowering the shades and holing up by yourself—it was called, simply, "Indoorsy." Built around submerged samples and blissed beatwork, he's made a lot of songs that radiate with the comforting stillness of home living. Over the phone from his Los Angeles apartment, he explains that his new album as Geotic—first a home for his ambient efforts, now the moniker that he uses for all forms of "passive listening"—was an attempt at capturing his affinity for domesticity.
"'Nesting' is the word I keep coming back to," he says. "Especially because the place that I live in now—the place that I'm currently pacing around—is my favorite place I've ever lived. [After] putting all my shit up and making it feel really homey, I was inspired to try to make a musical equivalent to that."
The resultant record Abysma, due March 31 on Ghostly, glows with that sort of comfort. Synthesizer lines shine like magic-hour pastels through a picture window. There are drums throughout, but even they're downy, floating and fluttering like the heavy-breathed aftermath of a pillowfight. It's the sort of record you can zone out, or put on in the background as you do the dishes.
Wiesenfeld says the steady pulse of the record is a result of his longtime affinity for proper dance music, starting as a kid listening to trance compilations. But even the busiest moments come with a centered. Like Boards of Canada's magical realist flips on 90s dancefloor tropes, Abysma's a record for head-bobbing in an easy chair, contemplating your place in the world. After all, there's already enough music designed for when you're out there in the thick of it. Below, alongside a stream of the glassine single "Billionth Remnant," Wiesenfeld reflects on the role that dance music has played in his life, and on the ways that electronic music can offer coziness.
THUMP: Geotic started as an ambient project, what first drew you to that as a listener?
Will Wiesenfeld: Immediately, it was for studying and falling asleep. It always soothed my state of being before I went to bed. And then during studying it was like a thing that helped me keep my focus because I have ADHD. Almost more than the music itself. it was just a way to drown out outside noise when I was working.
Now instead of an ambient project you describe it as "passive listening." Is the idea that dance music can fill the same functional role in your life?
The tag of calling it "passive listening" had existed a while back for the project because there had been some really early on stuff I made for Geotic that did have really small beats. But yeah, it's that same idea that it can occupy the same territory because it's kind of a zen state of listening in a lot of ways, where you can be doing other things. It's just sort of an atmosphere that pervades what you're doing. I like driving to both [ambient music and dance music], but I think, like, dance music is more like the ambient music of driving, whereas ambient music is the ambient music of being at home. I guess?
Either way, this music fits that Brian Eno definition of ambient music, the "as ignorable as it is interesting" thing.
I actually haven't heard that and that is fucking perfect. Yes, that's exactly the point. I don't know any Brian Eno which is really funny and I have a lot of friends that criticize me all the time for it. I literally don't know any of his music at all, which is fucked up.
At least for like the dance music I listen to it's hard for me to find stuff that is emotionally stimulating, while still being a dance music experience. That's why I kind of wanted to start this dance type of Geotic music—where there's a lot of ambient aspects to it but it's still emotional, you can still dance to it, all these things sort of coexist.
Tell me a bit about your relationship to dance music. Despite the fact that it's electronic, you'd be hard pressed to describe much of the Baths material under that banner.
Literally my first experience with dance music was "Blue" by Eiffel 65 on Radio Disney in the bathtub. It was in that era where you could hear a song on the radio and then not know what it was for a really long time, and that's exactly what happened. So I became obsessed with trying to find out what it was. Then I heard it again somewhere out in the world and had a panic attack and needed to know. I still have that first Eiffel 55 cd, Europop, like ingrained in me.
Then I found this very particular brand of trance that spoke to me a lot. That had like a lot of melodies, it was fairly simple but really emotional, and I could detach myself from at the same time as being engaged with it, so I just had a whole fuck ton of that kind of music. And it was kind of cheesy and a lot of my friends didn't care about that shit at all.
It's funny that you talk about wanting emotion from dance music, there's nothing more emotional than trance.
I know. It's so good. I used to turn to the A State of Trance [mixes] every year they came out, I was fucking obsessed with it. My biggest gripe is that they're now full of these huge awful dubstep breakdowns. That just completely negates the emotional experience for me. It's just like, "Well, here's the fuckin loudest thing we can do."
Did you ever get into going to clubs? It doesn't really sound like you came into it that way.
I don't have a deep relationship with going out to the club or going to hear music live in a lot of ways. I think I was more into it in middle school and high school when it was like absolutely the thing to do, and when going to shows didn't mean that everybody going to the show would end up like really drunk because that's also something that kind of turns me off about the experience. There have been show experiences where I've gone and I loved and I totally connected with and had a great experience, but they're so rare for me that I don't depend on them as my kind of musical emotional sustenance. I get that from listening to music by myself. Even if it's the most socially oriented club music, that doesn't really mean anything for me—just as long as like I like it when I'm by myself.
So this record is more geared to that sort of home listening experience.
That's definitely what it was born of. Most of my favorite music on this earth falls under that category. One of my favorite bands of all time is this group Lali Puna. They have a really big band with a lot going on and a lot of intricate songs. But the feel of it is just so comfortable. I always think about how it's my favorite thing to like fill my house with. All my favorite records always come to me with that feeling.
Whether as Baths or with this project, you make a lot of music that's geared toward introversion. Is that something that drives you to make art in general, like reflecting that perspective?
I don't even think too consciously about it. You know that expression "write what you know"? I know what it's like to do things on my own for better or for worse. A lot of the best aspects of that are that I have a very good mind for fantasy and invention—I can like get so much out of engaging in a video game or TV series for a really long time. I get so much from it that I don't necessarily need to like recharge in a super social way. I don't need to go out every day and hang out with friends in order to feel rejuvenated and healthy and like I'm living my best life. I make all my music literally sitting by myself in my room, that's where my comfort zone is.
I was struck by how funny the video for "Actually Smiling" is, it reminds me of your Twitter account, which isn't really something you've brought into your music before. Was that by design?
I'm glad you said that. Most of the time we were making the video, I was trying to sell it by saying, 'I'm trying to make a video that feels kind of like my Twitter.' I'm myself at all times. And I think that there's this misunderstanding that can come from my music that's like it's totally separate from who I am or totally divorced from like what I'm like. It's all the same shit. In a single day I can move from like working on a song to like masturbating or like running down the street to get a snack or meeting up with friends. LIke it's all the same universe, it doesn't have to exist in such a separate, deliberate way.
Aside from releasing this record what's next? Is there more Baths stuff in the pipeline?
I'm finished with the Baths record. I think it's cool to say that. There's a lot of stuff going on right now behind the scenes trying to figure things out with it. I don't even know if I'm supposed to...if it's cool to mention...I couldn't be more excited about it.