Cross Record ‘Wabi-Sabi’ – ALBUM REVIEW

This Cross Record article was written by Ian Bailey, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Stephen Butchard.

Cross Record owes a lot to its musical predecessors.  It feels like a cross between Belinda Butcher and Elena Tonra’s in vocal style, mixed with an eccentric instrumental backing that sometimes evokes the electronica of Brian Eno’s early 80s output and more often than not, the low-fi indie rockers of the early to mid-1990s, such as Liz Phair and Pavement. It’s a collage-like, ethereal sound, often minor-keyed but never overly depressing. While this project is certainly derived from earlier influences, sophomore album ‘Wabi-Sabi’ isn’t derivative in the slightest; it is artistic to the core. Emily Cross – lead singer and main instrumentalist – is an artist, musician and photographer who provides an eccentric, experimental base for her music.  

Meanwhile, Dan Duszynsk (who is also Cross’ husband) reinforces the sound live and in the studio. It was Dan who, with help from Theo Karon, produced and directed the LP. He did an amazing job: the vocals are bold in the mix, the guitars are loud without going over the top, and everything has its place within the soundscape. On the whole, the philosophy behind the mixing seems to be bold but minimalistic, with each instrument given just enough space to make the songs better. There are exceptions to this rule, however; for example, lead single ‘Steady Waves’, where everything is in the forefront. But on the whole, the tracks here seem to have one central instrument with others in the background. Sometimes the guitar is at the forefront of a song, sometimes it’s the percussion.

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While Cross has claimed in interviews that ‘Wabi-Sabi’ was influenced by her surroundings and the natural world around her, the lyrics on the LP aren’t completely inapplicable to anyone who hasn’t lived in Texas, nor do they tell a concrete narrative. In a way, the way that vocals are handled in ‘Wabi-Sabi’ remind of the vocals within My Bloody Valentine – an instrument; something to help the song, but not the heart of it. Cross Record don’t quite go that far, and the vocals are still audible. In fact, sometimes they become quite noticeable. As previously alluded to, when the vocals do take centre stage, the style of delivery is evocative of Elena Tonra’s work in Daughter. The clash between those two styles of singing might seem strange, but the switch allows Cross to showcase her vocal abilities much in the same way that instruments do when pushed to the front of their songs.

‘Wabi-Sabi’ is out via Ba Da Bing on 29 January 2016.

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