Album Review

Cross Record - Wabi-Sabi

The brilliance of this Cross Record album, ‘Wabi-Sabi’, is in how perfect calm gets broken by a terrifying storm.

Cross Record - Wabi-Sabi

On paper, Emily Cross enjoys a perfectly peaceful, zen existence. She lives with husband and studio engineer Dan Duszynski in a place called Dripping Springs, thirty minutes outside of Austin, Texas. They own their own studio, with acres of lands to explore, uninterrupted by strangers or even phone notifications. They have a tradition at SXSW Festival where every year, they put on a showcase called “Chill Phases”. All that’s missing is a few yoga classes and a book on mindfulness.

Scrap the premonition of Cross being completley at ease. Isolation doesn’t always lend to happy clappy anti-WiFi loveliness, after all. Madness tends to creep in. Think about those vast, dry Louisiana fields in True Detective, the great open roads where who knows, some serial killer with a chainsaw might pop up out of nowhere. It’s doesn’t exactly exhibit insanity, but the brilliance of this Cross Record album, ‘Wabi-Sabi’, is in how perfect calm gets broken by a terrifying storm.

‘Wabi-Sabi’’s title refers to a Japanese way of thinking, where imperfection is accepted. There’s nothing more chill than thinking burnt toast is fine, after all. This record breaks out of comfort at every opportunity. ‘Steady Waves’ launches from nice, plucked acoustics into a saw-toothed alter-ego. ‘Basket’ is a disjointed creeper formed from silent city backstreets. It’s the opposite of perfect, constructed out of half-conscious screams and flickering half-ideas. ‘Wasp in a Jar’ packs sinister tricks, its thumping, fuzz-laced chorus bringing to mind Grizzly Bear, if they traded Cape Cod for a frozen winter cabin.

Because Cross lives in near-isolation, she doesn’t have to annoy any neighbours. ‘Wabi-Sabi’ works best, then, when the drums are pounded, the distortion threatening to overwhelm. Instead of being a divine glimpse into living miles away from the nearest main road or local bus, ‘Wabi-Sabi’ showcases the other side of being alone, the joy in doing whatever you want, when you want. It’s difficult to imagine the results being this good if Cross had limited studio time, or if she tried to record vocal takes with strangers listening in.

Tags: Cross Record, Reviews, Album Reviews

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