When Pitchfork published an article titled “Deftones Dude Has a Witch House Project” in 2011, it was one of the earliest sightings of Crosses. Crosses is Chino Moreno (Deftones), Shaun Lopez (Far), and Chuck Doom, a collaboration that creates a bizarre, mellow mix. The trio released a string of EPs before debuting their full-length studio album.
With occult imagery and pagan symbols, this recent addition to the band’s repertoire looks intimidating, but upon close examination witch house only comprises a small part of Chino Moreno’s assortment of relatively tame audio candy.
As with all track names on the album, “This is a Trick,” is stylized in cross symbols. This opening track is dark jungle with sound effects such as piercing whistles, hums, and a frog-like scrape. Moreno’s vocals are crisp in comparison to the distorted, drowned-out style that is classic Deftones.
Industrial rock quickly turns into 80s new wave on the following “Telepathy,” a song that is either Depeche Mode teleported to the twenty-first century or Berlin and Daft Punk’s gothic love child. It retains its house roots and triumphs as a great dance tune.
The third song is Crosses’ promotional single, “Bitches Brew.” With a name like that, one has trouble taking it seriously. Is this a ridiculous reach towards that witch house label? Besides, since when is a single the best song on an album? “Bitches Brew” redeems itself with a high quality music video and a kick-ass industrial climax that could stand to last longer.
The next couple of tracks are a unique hybrid of dream, house, and rock. “Trophy” is a frolic on the ocean of sadcore; instead of industrial screams, we’re treated to a seabird sound. Crosses continues with “The Epilogue,” a trip-hop, shoegaze masterpiece. Lyrically, “The Epilogue” is a nihilistic love song drenched in alliteration that forces the listener to question their own reality.
The dream retains its flighty tones with the song “Bermuda Locket,” a brief soulful pop ballad on which Moreno’s decayed vocal fades are heavily showcased, each line starting with a moan and ending in a growl. As we dive into “Frontiers,” we are greeted once again to a drum-heavy industrial jungle. Ultimately, it’s a good rock contribution to the album that still contains a slight dream pop influence. “Nineteen Ninety Four” is a surreal poem with its lyrical metaphors, backed by a dreamy slide guitar. Even with the vocal shrills and quivers, weighted with emotion, this song is complete zen.
At this point, the listener is immersed into the heart of this dream. “Option,” however, starts with 15 seconds of a somewhat disappointing intro. The chorus leaves a lot to be desired. It doesn’t seem original enough to live up to its clever verse. Then, Crosses travel back with their minimalist track “Nineteen Eighty Seven.” The song is composed of one lyrical couplet and one synth that each dissolve into chaos before an abrupt end.
Four minutes and 30 seconds felt like seven years.
To round out the album, “Blk Stallion,” a made-for-radio song transports the listener to a cave on some far away planet, while the completely instrumental, astronaut folk song “Cross” elongates the space theme.
Finally, my personal favorite comes on. Two repeating piano chords reminiscent of Lana del Rey’s “Video Games,” Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song,” and Moby’s “Porcelain” drop before Moreno comes in, crooning inside a glass box. “Death Bell” is a story in its own right, a fitting way to end this dream sequence.
Released last Tuesday and available via Sumerian Records, Crosses captures what it means to be dream pop and what it means to be a surreal experience.
Article by Jade Theriault