Geotic — Sunset Mountain Birth name: Will Wiesenfeld
Also known as: Geotic, [Post–Foetus]
Born: April 16, 1989, Tarzana, Los Angeles, California, United States
Origin: Culver City, Los Angeles, California, United States
Genres: Futurepop, electronic, experimental, glitch, IDM, chillwave
Location: Woodland Hills ~~ Los Angeles, CA
Album release: 16 December 2014
Record Label: Eon Isle
01. Up a Narrow Trail In the Woods 3:18
02. We Can Conquer Small Fears 3:24
03. Flit Around the Rivulets 3:41
04. Hidden Springs, Floating Leaves 3:44
05. Slow, Fading Heat 3:39
06. Piggybacking 3:33
07. In the Amber Hour 3:56
08. Monks Off Somewhere 3:36
09. Share Wordless Company 3:57
10. Reach the Broad Expanse 3:28
11. Blush With the Sky 3:56
12. Weightlessness 3:43
♠ Will Wiesenfeld
♠ Vocals recorded at the Wolf family cabin in Lake Arrowhead, California. Final editing done at home.
♠ Cover Painting by Jude Wiesenfeld.
♠ Second in a series of full–length Geotic releases under the Eon Isle header, each release sourced entirely from a single instrument.
♠ Guitar — (Summer 2014)
♠ Voice — (Winter 2014)
♠ Piano — (Spring 2015)
by Kyle Taylor
♦ California producer and all–around musician Will Wiesenfeld is most commonly known for his main touring project, Baths. What you might not know, however, is that over the years Wiesenfeld has further stretched those musical muscles, embarking on two solo projects: [Post–Foetus] — for which he has a single album release, The Fabric– and Geotic, under which he has released multiple albums.
♦ The Geotic project continues forward today with Wiesenfeld’s latest release to date: Sunset Mountain (Eon Isle), part of the Eon Isle album series. The series’ first album, Morning Shore (Eon Isle), took a new approach, not just for Wiesenfeld, but for minimal music in general. Each album serves to delve into the realm of sound through a single instrument, for Morning Isle that being guitar, and now on Sunset Mountain, which relies purely on vocals.
♦ Even with what might seem to be a crutch, containing himself to a single instrument per album, Wiesenfeld is able to create deeply exploratory and complex compositions. Both records in the series manage to be somehow extremely simple, yet extremely elaborate at the same time.
♦ Wiesenfeld’s angelic voice has infiltrated his music throughout his whole career, and throughout each project. Yet, until this point it has only served to compliment further electronic production, be it through ambient synthesizers, seemingly distant guitar loops, found–sound noises, or off–beat glitch–inspired drum rhythms. Sunset Mountain seems to recall classical composition methods, mirroring the age of Gregorian chants, which also relied purely on multiple overlaying vocal sections. Through this glance at the past, Wiesenfeld is able to take a step into the future of minimal electronic music. Instead of a choir, modern production technology has allowed Wiesenfeld to exploit his own voice, and his own voice alone, for such complex vocal compositions.
♦ The minimal and ambient nature of the Geotic project is more conducive to simply listening. There are no danceable sections, especially on Sunset Mountain. The album is relaxed and comfortable, easy on the ears. It only further demonstrates Wiesenfeld’s musical prowess, successfully garnering momentum in a genre that receives little attention in the music world today.
♦ Though Baths is his best known musical project, the Los Angeles native Will Wiesenfeld once said he was more likely to make music under the name Geotic “when it’s beautiful and cold outside and the weather is just more mellow.” Given its ambient sound and comparatively basic hip–hop loops, the side project felt less ambitious than Baths, but also less theatrical, less constructed, and overall, like a more comfortable listening experience.
♦ Last July, after a three year hiatus, Wiesenfeld once again started releasing music as Geotic, this time in service of a trilogy of albums referred to collectively as Eon Isle. But while the first album in the series, Morning Shore, may have seemed like a throwback to that comfortable sound, Wiesenfeld had transformed Geotic; no longer a release from the creative strain that clearly went into Baths, it was now a challenge unto itself. Each Eon Isle album is constructed from the sounds of a single instrument. Morning Shore was all guitar. The second album in the trilogy, Sunset Mountain, which came out last month, consists entirely of vocals and nothing more. (The final album, Evening Sky, due next spring, will be made from piano.)
♦ While the trilogy has a clear sense of exploration in common with its Geotic predecessors, it also finds Wiesenfeld on more of a mission. Albums like Mend found him happily meandering, but the restrictions he’s imposed on himself both on Morning Shore and on Sunset Mountain can make it seem as if he’s throwing down a kind of creative gauntlet, a test to be overcome. That’s particularly true on Sunset Mountain. ♦ Though the human voice is at least as flexible an instrument as the guitar, for whatever reason, Wiesenfeld restrains himself here more so than he did on the last record.
♦ The result is an even more technically impressive set of compositions, which find Wiesenfeld constructing vocal cathedrals — tracks whose complexity is such that it becomes entirely possible to forget that the entire thing is voice and voice alone. “Hidden Springs, Floating Leaves” sounds as if it was written for a choir — the variety of voices layered around each other in different registers is staggering in its breadth, even when you forget that it’s all Wiesenfeld. “Reach the Broad Expanse” shows equal range, as Wiesenfeld roughs up one version of his voice, letting his lowest tone provide a floor for the track while other iterations of his voice float toward the sky.
♦ A characteristic shared by Baths and Geotic are the two projects’ intense sensuality. ♦ In much of his music, Wiesenfeld comes off as almost carnal, a man obsessed with the way things feel and taste. For that reason, the music on his new record, even when angelic in melody, can come across as decidedly more deviant. It is gothic in a way that is less sober Bavarian hymnal and more “The Turn of the Screw”.
♦ Indeed, while monks do appear in one of the album’s best tracks, they are described as being “off somewhere,” and there is a lilting sweetness to the singing here that is less mournful and more satisfied–sounding. “Hidden Springs, Floating Leaves” makes use of that same wicked vocal style that fans will recognize from Obsidian, and even “Piggybacking”, with its heavenly spiral stair patterns, comes off as somewhat sexual. (Though it may just be that the song’s title is reminiscent of the “sweet swine” from “Ironworks”, the one engaged in “tempestuous foreplay.”)
♦ Without any instrument available to keep time (thankfully, Wiesenfeld does not beatbox here) the album suffers from significant problems with pacing. Some of the tracks here retain a remarkable sense of momentum, the kind usually created by the presence of a beat. “We Can Conquer Small Fears” is an early example; the track is patterned to the point where it’s easy to detect its natural rhythm. But several falter. ♦ True to its name, “Slow Fading Heat” is a slow, fading bore, one of more than a few songs here that lull you into forgetting about the creative talent behind them even when your attention is fully focused on them.
♦ And that’s ultimately the key issue with Sunset Mountain. This sort of formal experiment fades a little when you ignore the process and consider the end–result. It’s impressive that Wiesenfeld is able to magic this music out of such a limited tool–set but at the same time, imposing those kinds of gimmicky limitations may be keeping Wiesenfeld from dealing with knottier artistic puzzles. Since his best album to date, Obsidian, was released in 2013, he’s made a single EP as Baths. While Geotic is pretty, diverting, and shows a prodigious formal skill, the end product, in spite of its process, lacks the drive and ambition of the artist’s best work. It ends up feeling like something of a practice session, albeit one of a very talented athlete, a grueling workout for the even more challenging event still to come.
|Sunset Mountain (Eon Isle)
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