Release Date: Jan 29, 2016
Record label: Ba Da Bing Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Experimental Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
There is no shortage of records inspired by a move to the country, but few that feel so attuned to the creative possibilities of their new environment as the second album by songwriter Emily Cross. No bucolic cliches here. In 2014, Cross and her husband Dan Duszynski (who produces) relocated from Chicago to rural Texas, and the landscape she evokes, emotional as well as physical, is a place of strange and elemental forces.
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”.
Two years ago, husband and wife team Dan Duszynski and Emily Cross, otherwise known as Cross Record, decamped to rural Texas, where Cross, emboldened by the sheer scale of landscape (not to mention the scorpions that adorn the artwork), wrote a suite of songs indebted to the remote beauty beyond her windows. As such, there’s a pronounced elegance to Wabi-Sabi. Wispy vocals layered across delicate musical patterns that float, difficult to slot neatly into genre – there’s a wee trace of Björk’s more pared-back moments about this.
Cross Record forged their path along old-fashioned and modern lines at once. Their music's presence on Bandcamp, the stalwart American site that has become the new A&R for the country's best bands, got them their start, but the husband-and-wife duo of Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski didn't land their deal with Ba Da Bing Records until Cross sent a CD of their music with a note to label owner Ben Goldberg after meeting him at a Lady Lamb the Beekeeper show. Wabi-Sabi marks the first proper album Cross Record has created as Ba Da Bing artists, and indeed indicates a marked sense of sonic growth from the duo's early Bandcamp recordings, which boasted a desolate, folk-born sound akin to Smells Like-era Cat Power and Nina Nastasia à la Dogs.
Almost all the press material I’ve read about this debut from Cross Record mentions how much it conjures up the spirit of nature. It’s an album recorded by a husband and wife who moved from Chicago to a Texas ranch two years ago. Considering how recent their relocation was, it’s impressive how quickly the couple acclimated to the beauties and brutalities of their new surroundings and incorporated it into their sound.
Cross Record's second album Wabi Sabi is named after a Japanese aesthetic emphasizing the beauty of things that are imperfect, asymmetrical, and impermanent. The album is the first recording by songwriter Emily Cross and her husband Dan Duszynski since the couple relocated from Chicago to a ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas, a small city near Austin, and it reflects the change in habitat. The album retains the delicate yet tense sound of the group's 2012 debut Be Good, but there's a bit more of a spacious, wide-open feel to it.
Cross Record — Wabi Sabi (BaDaBing)Cross Record puts an intriguing friction into the folky singer-songwriter idiom, layering the heady purity of high, fluting female vocals (that’s Emily Cross, who with her husband Dan Duszynski makes up the duo) with a buzz of noise and dissonance. Their best songs start in spare, ethereal, pristine prettiness — a web of picked guitar, a mass of bleached out vocals, a few piano notes — but wake the beast midway, as booming, clanging percussion and stark guitar tone flex muscles under unruffled serenity. “Steady Waves” is the most beautiful — and the most disruptive — of these cuts.
The Upshot: An eccentric album that will find its home with those who seek something creatively different in their music on a mellow, rainy day. Cross Record, husband-wife duo Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski, returns with their second album; following their 2013 debut Be Good, Wabi-Sabi continues in the same vein of hauntingly serene soundscapes. Cross’ airy, wispy vocals, that remain in the realm of a gentle whisper, add to the mellow, organic feel of the album.