††† (Crosses) – ‘Permanent.Radiant’

By Ian Kenworthy

December is here, the nights have closed in, and Crosses have returned from their torpor. This dark atmospheric electro-rock project is the fusion of producer and multi-instrumentalist Shaun Lopez and Deftones front man Chino Moreno’s considerable vocal talents. After drip-feeding a series of new singles they are back with a new EP ‘Permanent.Radiant’ – it’s new, it’s fresh and focused, and exactly what you need on dark, moody evenings.

Obviously this is a project that will appeal to Deftones fans, especially those of the band’s experimental mid-era work. However, Crosses are completely their own thing and definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re also fan of Nine Inch Nails. Shaun Lopez channels Trent Reznor’s skill in creating electronic canvases and his work here is excellent, even compared to the duo’s previous work. The drums, beats, loops, keyboards and guitars create a huge array of sounds but they’re used cleverly and sparingly, making everything feel real and human in a way that a lot of electronic music doesn’t. It’s rich and textured, helped by the production which, to quote a famous advertising slogan, sounds reassuringly expensive. Listen to their stand-alone singles and the 2014 debut album and you’ll notice how much more assured it is.

Opening with a glitching sound that might remind you of a 16-bit games console having a nervous breakdown, ‘Sensation’ carefully deals its hand, adding bass, drums, vocals before erupting into a lush rock verse. It’s a powerful way to start proceedings, showing off the duo’s paint palette in a really satisfying way, but it’s also an idea retained throughout the EP. Sounds are carefully revealed so that everything feels rich in atmosphere, but not confined by it. There’s a heavy edge to the compositions but they all feel like songs, and while they expand and contract you get a clear sense of scale. Intimacy isn’t something they’re afraid of and neither is a big hook, and the best place to look for both is leading single ‘Vivien’. Lopez shifts from electronic beats in the verses to a more expansive guitar sound in the choruses. Watch the music video and, although clearly staged, it neatly depicts how he shifts between instruments, in a microcosm of how the songs are constructed.

While you can’t really call this an experimental project, it’s striking how there’s a tug-of-war between big cymbal splashes and the underscored electronic drums on ‘Cadavre Exquis’ which morphs between different sounds, feeling like new territory. However, ‘Day One’ is something totally different. It has an almost calypso vibe which doesn’t really gel with the surrounding aesthetic. On a slightly longer record this wouldn’t be a problem, but here it feels a little off. That said, it’s nice to hear them doing something so totally strange, especially as it works well on its own terms.

One of the duo’s biggest selling points is Moreno’s vocals and he is a great fit for Lopez’s work. The tone and warmth of his singing really suits the wide-ranging music, but his ability to construct an intoxicating melody is what makes these songs work so well. The dark atmospherics perfectly compliment his voice, especially the film soundtrack-esque ‘Holier’ where his singing rides through the atmospheric beats and keyboards, carving a path like a ship navigating a storm. However the most striking feature is the way his voice slips between smooth and husky, like a sail in the wind, turning this way and that – just a little at a time, but enough to cut and drive his way through the ever-evolving music. On ‘Sensation’ and ‘Procession’ it’s really effective but the best example is ‘Vivien’ where just a little change to his tone turns the refrain into a sharpened knife. There’s also a startling amount of seductiveness and allure to his voice, especially where the music pairs back to emphasise him singing the words “soaking wet,” recalling his main project’s sultry ‘Diamond Eyes’ era.

‘Permanent.Radiant’ is a delicious mix of atmospheric electro-rock. If you’re looking for comfort on a dark night it contains what is easily the duo’s strongest material. A rich, moody treat.

IAN KENWORTHY

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