ABYSMA by Geotic
Genre: Microhouse, Electronic
Favorite Tracks: “Perish Song,” “Actually Smiling,” “Nav,” “Sunspell”
On occasion, an album’s cover says more about an album than words ever can, and Geotic’s ABYSMA is a perfect example of such. The cover’s simultaneous modernity and nostalgia are the perfect capsule for the music inside. Geotic is the ambient project of Will Wiesenfeld. Wiesenfeld’s other side project, Baths, is a hip hop/indie pop crossover whose track “Animals” made waves in 2010. Though Baths is Wiesenfeld’s better known pseudonym, Geotic has been active longer than Baths, debuting with the 2008 album EYES. Geotic’s latest release, ABYSMA, is a minimalist crossover between chillwave and dance. Though Geotic’s niche has faded from relevance and become one of indie culture’s favorite jokes, ABYSMA proves that there is potential for chillwave producers to make genuinely impressive music worth listening to in 2017.
ABYSMA’s greatest strength is the masterful vocal style and manipulation. Though the project is not instrumental, it features vocals so subtle and perfectly mixed that they sound like another instrument. These vocals are perplexing, androgynous, and mysterious. They lead to an otherworldly sound that cannot be pigeonholed, even with the labels attached to Wiesenfeld’s music earlier in the decade. A perfect example of this is the album’s single “Actually Smiling.” Upon first listen and without context, I initially believed that the track’s vocals were a remarkable sample. Upon discovering that the vocals were live, I was even more impressed. Where Bath’s greatest weakness was always its vocals being significantly weaker than the gorgeous instrumentals, Geotic excels vocally, with Wiesenfeld sounding both human and alien, male and female.
ABYSMA’s production is also very impressive. It usually pulls from an otherworldly sonic array, with blazing synth chords topping intricate drum beats that sound like they could have been unused takes from Radiohead’s THE KING OF LIMBS. The album’s production is downright pretty most of the time, with the only exception being the track “Laura Corporeal.” This track is the only point at which the nostalgic modernity of the production sounds cheesy.
Despite the album’s single genuinely subpar track, it is a gorgeous and transportive listen. The opening track “Sunspell” is breathtaking, sounding like watching flowers bloom on a different planet. It is the perfect start to a surprisingly gratifying listen. The album rarely strays from the understated prettiness of its opening track, but this is ultimately a strength for Geotic when it could be a weakness for other artists.
One of Wiesenfeld’s most impressive skills as an artist is his creative and ingenuitive instrumentation. ABYSMA perfectly floats between danceable and relaxing, and while it would not sound out of place playing in a zen garden, it could also comfortably fit in a DJ set. As a producer, Wiesenfeld has always been his able to blur lines and create music that cannot be pinned down in one genre. This skill is better showcased in the music of Baths and one of my biggest qualms with ABYSMA is that it imposes limits on itself that don’t need to be there, ultimately making Geotic the less worthwhile of its creator’s two personas. Wiesenfeld describes Geotic as “passive listening” and Baths as “active listening.” Were Wiesenfeld willing to view his two personas as different artists instead of similar projects with different purposes, ABYSMA could certainly present a more exciting listening experience that would better compare to the music released as Baths.
Comparisons aside, ABYSMA is still a worthwhile listen, with intricacies that make it one of the most engaging passive albums I’ve listened to this year. While it could certainly embrace its potential for greater experimentation, it never falls short and is ultimately a gorgeous and interesting experience. Even if it is unassertive, ABYSMA is still one of the most stimulating and worthwhile releases of the year so far.