Cross Record, the self-titled third album of Emily Cross’s experimental solo project, ruminates on death and the mind’s fragility. Themes no-doubt influenced by the artist’s recent transition into the role of a death doula, Cross merges eerie soundscapes with her sparse, distorted vocals to create a transcendental listening experience.
Introducing her distinctive sound in 2013, Cross recorded her first two albums with Loma bandmate and former partner Dan Duszynski at their farmhouse outside of Austin. In contrast to previous collaborations, Cross wrote the songs from her latest work while living in seclusion near Mexico’s coast, contributing to themes of separation which permeate throughout the album. “PYSOL My Castle” (“Put Your Shoes On Leave My Castle”) details Cross’s visit to a crowded Mexican street market and desire for mental refuge over delicate, lush percussion. Cross sings, “I cannot take what you are giving / You cannot break the bubble I’m living in,” — a reclamation of space from the invasive figures around her.
In the album’s haunting first track, Cross begs the question, “What is Your Wish?” over a bed of white noise and vocal manipulation. Contrastingly, the plucky guitar and slow build of “Licorice” sounds evocative of earlier songs from her 2016 full-length Wabi-Sabi, such as “Steady Waves” and “High Rise.” The track most strongly correlated with death, “Licorice” presents the visceral image of a body covered in salt and insects, decaying within the earth, awaiting memorial. In more spiritual tone, “An Angel, A Dove” builds with luscious synths and strings as it presents the image of a soul departing from the earth, with the song’s instrumentation becoming more layered and urgent as Cross envisions a dove carrying her away.
Along with reconciling feelings about life and death, Cross provides a stark view of her experience with alcohol dependency. In “Face Smashed, Drooling,” Cross mourns her struggle with alcoholism and decision to quit drinking: “No longer will I drink the poison / Though it tastes like the setting sun.” Cross has noted that she experienced grief when making the decision to stop drinking, as she “associated it with comfort, fun in the evening time and fond memories.” This conflict, and the album’s overall theme of mental discord comes to a head in “The Fly.”With pulsating drums and synths, Cross oscillates between conflicting images and melodies, a sonic representation of her mind’s discombobulated state.
Shannen McKee is an LA-based writer, musician and self-proclaimed comedian. When not discovering new music, she enjoys reading poetry and poring over web series ideas with friends.