The side-project of Los Angeles’ DJ Will Wiesenfeld, best known for his work as Baths, Goetic focuses on soothing ambient sounds, aided by silky micro-house beats and natural textures. Featuring a mixture of instrumental and sung, pop-lite dance tracks, his latest effort Traversa, is easy on the ears but untaxing on the brain. Ostensibly designed for easy listening, there’s little on this album that is challenging, or for that matter, truly memorable. While perfect for going about other tasks, or wanting to chill out, Traversa lacks the kind of depth to make it a truly re-playable record.
Geotic – Full Album
In interviews Will Wiesenfeld has stated that the album is “inspired by travel” and the feelings that it evokes; openness, wide plains and a sense of adventure. To perfectly tailor to this feeling of being outside, the album opens with “Knapsack,” featuring bird sounds, high-tuned Mylo-like drums, bleeps, spacey synths and what appears to be the sound of someone walking in the forest. It announces Traversa as a mixture between the earth and the electronic, and that although it may feature many flights of ethereal fantasy, it is still grounded in the world itself.
Then Wiesenfeld himself starts singing, making this concept explicit, talking of “Boots and thick socks/Roots and old rocks”. He seems peaceful, relaxed, ready to move on to the next step. This is typical of the record, which is heavily in favour of appreciating the wonders of nature, travel and opening oneself up to experience.
Geotic – Gondolier
This is best epitomised by the second track on the album, “Swiss Bicycle”. Its the most enjoyable track on the record. Opening with a bumpy, Todd Terje-style drum beat and melodic harp line, it eventually adds in sweeping harmonic strings to give the second journey a real sense of depth. Yet even here, when it feels like Geotic will add in one more layer to really allow the song to take off, it ends. This is true of the album as a whole which often feels like a lot of rough drafts thrown together for a mixtape instead of something genuinely finished.
Traversa’s Bouncy Exterior Hides a Darker Heart
Thus “Harbor Drive”, with plinky piano melodies, ethereal background vocals and addictive drum beats promises to take you somewhere new but ends up repeating the same idea over and over again. “Aerostat” references deep house in its immersive pattern, with Weisenfeld now sounding more melancholy, suggesting a darker heart to the album than previously imagined. He sings that “Time had its place/Between us both/But mail stacks/And patience croaks” suggesting that this journey isn’t merely a frivolous one, but inspired by a failed relationship. This is made quite apparent by the end, singing wistfully: “I love you more/ Than you’ll ever know/ Hot air balloon/ I’ll watch you float”.
Yet just as one senses they are getting to the heart of this piece, nothing is really developed, before the album abruptly switches to the observational bustle of “Town Square” – with Aphex Twin-style drum squiggles and a keen sense of melody. Its a pleasant enough track, with enough variation in patterns to make it effective, yet after the depth of “Aerostat”, it feels like a misplaced choice.
“Terraformer” works as a kind of combination of “Aerostat” and “Knapsack”. Over a pulsing drum riff and melodies reminiscent of driving video games, Wiesenfeld sings of flying, architecture and intimacy. Although on the face of it, the album sounds poppy and light, the lyrics suggest a remote spaceman who cannot find a way to connect: “Space flight and intimacy/Long responsibility/Can’t cut the boredom outta me/Come take your toll”.
The combination of the two creates a melancholy vibe, suggesting that for all of the bluster and energy of the instrumentation that something still doesn’t quite fit. Things pick up emotionally for our singer in “Gondolier”, which although lyrically apt, is just one verse after another. While there is variation within the beats themselves, and some changes from song to song, it would help if Geotic allowed there to be more dramatic change over the course of each individual song. As a result, the emotional turmoil heard in the lyrics feels just a little half-baked.
Geotic – Terraformer
In “Maglev” – named after the train itself – we return to the theme of travel. With a similar rhythmic pattern to “Swiss Bicycle” it feels like little has changed, only the location, moving us from the mountains to the shore back on to the open plain. The song is an accomplished blend of string melodies, repeating synth patterns and drum hits, yet as an album closer it seems to bring us back to square one. The journey is frustratingly incomplete. This may be the intention of the album, which is admittedly enjoyable, but leaves a sense of annoyance knowing that with more fine-tuning, and a better sense of structure, the record could’ve been a whole lot better.
The Verdict: Traversa is perfect for easy-listening and for travel, but lacks the punch of Will Wiesenfeld’s best work.