New album cross record
“What is your wish? What do you expect?” Cross Record’s self-titled third album begins with Emily Cross’s disembodied voice intoning from an otherworldly vacuum. In the three years since her last album, Cross has divorced, quit drinking, become a death doula, started the observational podcast “What I’m Looking At,” and toured and recorded with Sub Pop’s Loma, the trio she formed with Dan Duszynski on drums and Jonathan Meiburg (Shearwater) on guitar/vocals. On Cross Record, she guides the listener like a sonic Virgil, delivering a textured soundscape of meditative curiosity, akin to Low’s Double Negative, Broadcast’s The Noise Made By People and Radiohead’s Kid A.
Having recorded 2016’s Wabi Sabi at home between work and sleep hours, Cross did the opposite for Cross Record, writing the album while living on a secluded part of Mexico’s coast. The collaborative atmosphere of Loma challenged Cross to experiment with her sound, detuning her voice and obstructing its clarity in specific moments. As such, Cross Record is primarily a showcase for Cross’s singing, as she pushes her range and engages with a multitude of approaches at every turn.
Following her time in Mexico, Cross returned to the states with vocal-heavy demos in hand and finished the record with musician Andrew Hulett and producer Theo Karon. Karon assisted with production and arrangements throughout the creation of Cross Record, and the songs realized their ultimate forms at Hotel Earth, his studio in Los Angeles. Though her voice is always central, Cross’s songs developed with percussion, string arrangements and expanded production. The instrumentation is as nuanced and experimental as her voice.
In her songs, Cross reconciles her present state of being with her experiences of the past few years. “PYSOL My Castle” was inspired by a visit to an overstimulating Mexican street market teeming with people, and describes Cross’s search for an unencumbered mindspace. “An Angel, a Dove” frames death as spiritual departure; a haunting synthetic soundscape gradually gives way to increasingly dissonant, urgent melodies as Cross envisions herself alight on a dove she suspects may be an angel carrying her from life. “The Fly,” which envelops the listener in filtered drum loops and synthesizers, considers the fragility and the resilience of the mind. On “Face Smashed, Drooling,” Cross mourns her alcohol dependence. “There was a sort of grieving process to quitting drinking,” she says. “I associated it with comfort, fun in the evening time and fond memories.” The song slips in and out of consciousness before resolving in a place of clarity. “I Release You” lives in the same sonic chamber as late-stage Talk Talk, and explores the acceptance of change.
Cross Record’s themes of departure and separation were inspired by changes Cross made in her career. After years of work as a nanny and in customer service, Cross recently embarked on studies to become a death doula. Similar to the services provided by birth doulas, a death doula helps clients navigate decisions and hardships at the end of life. In her new role, Cross has created a three hour ceremony called a Living Funeral, which guides participants through the rituals of their own deaths. Cross’s work in helping others face their greatest fears inhabits the same space as her art, which has always explored the metaphysical in the everyday. The eerie experience of listening to Cross Record and the unsettling sense of songs slipping from coherent grasp share these same sensibilities. The oddness of these songs is nonetheless honest and truthful, and to understand them requires acknowledging notions of alienation in ourselves.
“What is your wish? What do you expect?” Cross doesn’t know what your expectations are, and she is still figuring out her own. Cross Record attempts to examine these questions with a lucidity that sometimes blurs into the realm of the unreal. The trip is extensive and finishes where it started, but the foundation has changed, clarified; while no closer to an answer, we have a greater sense of the question.
Separate from the shows, but in complement, Cross will be performing Living Funerals along her tour route.
PURCHASE WABI-SABI on CD AND LP VIA GRAPEFRUIT RECORD CLUB!
Cross Record "Wabi-Sabi" LP (Ba Da Bing)
In 2013, Emily Cross decamped from Chicago to the remote, idyllic town of Dripping Springs, TX, with her husband Dan Duszynski. They rented a ranch that covers eighteen acres, has a chicken coop and is located next to a bird sanctuary. During 60-hour workweeks, split between restaurants, supermarkets and nannying, she absorbed these workaday commonalities and shaped them into her smoky, atmospheric and gripping second album, Wabi-Sabi. Recording together as Cross Record throughout 2014 and into 2015 at the couple’s own Moon Phase Ranch, Wabi-Sabi is a crystallization of Cross’s past music and her passion for art (she studied at the Burren College of Art in Ireland). For example, the scorpions depicted on the cover were found in her bathtub (something she definitely had not experienced before living in Texas) and photographed by her, and she regularly draws and paints in a nook above the studio. The way we interact with and adapt to different and strange environments is a theme that permeates the album. Most recording was done in the early and late hours of the day, with loons cawing in the distance thanks to that bird sanctuary. The ambiance of twilight evenings and orange dawns formed its heart and soul. Cross’s wispy, silvery singing and minimal presentation contrast with the dark intensity of booming drums, thick guitar and destabilized electronics. It can be loud, stirring and unsettling, but also quietly still and serene. Dusynski produced and engineered the record, alongside production from one of Cross’s close friends Theo Karon, while Austin-based musician Thor Harris (Swans, Bill Callahan) also contributed.
1. The Curtains Part
2. Two Rings
3. Steady Waves
4. High Rise
5. Something Unseen Touches A Flower To My Forehead
6. The Depths
8. Wasp In A Jar