Cross Record is the musical alter ego of Emily Cross, a self-described “musician, artist and death worker” based in Austin, TX. As pointed out in the bio on her label’s site (link), the three years since Cross Record’s last album, Wabi-Sabi, has been – to say the least – tumultuous, including a divorce from husband and former bandmate, Dan Duszynksi (with whom she also performed in Loma), ceasing alcohol use and becoming a death doula.
It’s little wonder, then, that her latest, self-titled, release is woven throughout with tangible, often visceral, moods. The album’s production is minimal, containing shades of goth, early 4AD bands like This Mortal Coil, Kid A-era Radiohead, Imogen Heap, even new age. This pushes Cross’s vocals to the fore, the introduction synthesizing her voice into a dispassionate robot, posing the seemingly innocuous question, “What is your wish?” with more than a hint of foreboding.
The vocal arrangements recall Post-era Bjork, Heap, and later Cocteau Twins, but Cross does not share a propensity for vocal gymnastics. Her clean, breathy voice does, however, contain a similarly arresting quality. Which is a good thing, as it fixes your attention on her lyrical mind-paintings: the description in ‘Licorice’ of Cross being buried by ants, who then – in a twist worthy of Dahl – name the resulting ant hill in her honor is a particular case in point. Elsewhere, “Put your shoes on/“Leave my castle” (‘PYSOL My Castle’) may be one of the finer kiss offs around at the moment.
The plaintive framework built over an icy substrata makes the record, at times, feel discomfiting. Many songs deal with difficult moments, the often internal struggle while striving to come out on the proverbial ‘other side’ – “The Fly”’s admonishment to be “careful” with a fragile mind quickly followed by a derisive “fuck it”. The album cover, showing Cross skulling on an otherwise empty, mist-covered lake surrounded by mountains, seems fitting. But there is also a warmth that breathes throughout. Cross Record is a consistently beautiful record, one that takes you along on a difficult journey, but ultimately provides catharsis.
Cross Record is out now through Ba Da Bing! Following, a US tour is in the works, as part of which Cross (a ‘death doula’) will perform a ‘living funeral’ for those interested – dates here.