Emily Cross introduces her latest project, pulling apart the curtains shrouding the entrance into her world of music. The entrance is big, beautiful and full of brass: “The Curtains Part” is a loud introduction to the world that is Wabi-Sabi. The sharp contrast between Cross’s soft voice and the flickering strums on a guitar and the swelling brass at the end create a perfect first handshake with Wabi-Sabi.
Emily Cross extracted herself from her life in Chicago and engrafted it all in a new, very different place: Dripping Springs, TX. Here, her and her husband lived on a ranch with their chickens and a bird sanctuary in their back yard. Cross worked upwards of 60 hours a week as a nanny, restaurant worker, among other jobs. In the midst of all this, she channeled what energy she had left; energy that came with this new experience, new location and the buzz of her new life. Together this energy was projected in song. The inspiration for the album comes from the Japanese term, “wabi-sabi”, which is the idea of impermanence and imperfection. In Cross’s new home, she was surrounded by the unfamiliar, mysterious and beautiful. You can hear the foggy mornings and bright sunrises, singing birds and peaceful sunsets of the ranch in her music.
“Two Rings” is one of my favorites. The xylophone and bells are the sound of curiosity and exploration. I envision hands pulling back branches and bare feet wandering through trees and brush. The song gains and keeps momentum, speeding from walk to run.
Then comes “Steady Waves”, one of a few singles released to give listeners a taste of Wabi-Sabi. This single is a potent example of what this record has to offer. Intensity waxes and wanes, volume builds and crashes like waves. There is a drive behind this song like a quickly beating heart that is spellbinding and engrossing. It is almost as if you are being chased. But, near the end of the song, the chase slows to a gentle rocking, a lullaby. Cross casts these mystical spells on the listener time and time again during Wabi-Sabi.
“High Rise”, directly inspired by the rising of the sun above their very own Moon Phase Ranch, depicts in song the rising of an orange sun. With this track comes a curious music video in which Cross contorts, writhes and interacts with a chainsaw whilst wearing a strange, outfit causing her to look almost alien. From here “High Rise” breathes life into the following track, “Something Unseen Touches a Flower to My Forehead.” It is a forceful, pounding track with Cross’s voice gently laid atop. A light, delicate voice above rough guitars, throbbing drums and a sound like whips. The juxtaposition is invigorating and refreshing.
Her music glows, glimmers and shines but can also be raw, rough, jagged and forceful. Here lies the true beauty of Wabi-Sabi. The beauty in disparity and adaptation in divergent environments can be glimmering, exciting and striking but simultaneously rough, raw and jagged.
“Basket” for example is a strange, unnerving and otherworldly track that unpredictably, describes parenting in relation to weaving a basket. Over and over again, like the motions of weaving a basket, with ringing in the background and plucks on strings Cross sings:
I wanted to make something to hold you in.
I gathered the grasses, the sun turned them golden.
The brooding track, “Wasp in a Jar”, showcases Cross’ capabilities as a creative and diverse songwriter and displays the jagged edge of Wabi-Sabi. To me, it sticks out as one of the only, maybe THE only indie-rock-inspired track. It nearly has an edge of grunge rock as well. It’s wonderful to get the penultimate track on an album and be completely surprised at what hits your ears. You cannot predict Emily Cross’ next move sonically.
Photo Credit: Bryan C. Parker
You can discover Wabi-Sabi for yourself as it’s out now on Ba Da Bing Records. You can purchase it on iTunes.