Crosses – EP 1 (2011)

I just found out about this band yesterday night from a musical comrade and it’s been gnawing on my brain all day. These are some of the most impressive, unpretentious, genuinely hypnotic songs I’ve heard in a long while, and why should I be surprised – it is, after all, Chino Moreno’s side project.

Of course, the main connection here is to the Deftones, since Chino’s first claim to fame is being their singer, however, there’s a bit more to the mix. I was very pleasantly surprised to find out Shaun Lopez, the former guitarist in the very underrated band Far, one of Chino Moreno’s childhood friends, is taking part in this project. Far was, as far as I know, a rather short-lived band, who produced some of the most wonderful build-ups and most brutally exhilarating riffs in post-hardcore, so I’m really glad to see this great musician is still active, albeit in a much calmer, more subdued musical context. Duff McKagan of Guns’n’Roses and Velvet Revolver fame also played bass on some of these tracks, which is perhaps the biggest surprise of the whole endeavor, since this music seems to me to be very far removed from the hard rock, straight-edge sensibility of his previous bands.

Crosses released this first EP for free download in August 2011. It is a five track record, a dark, sensuous orgy of sound, and its tracks are, again, as far as I know, a selection out of about sixteen properly recorded tracks which they worked on in one massive effort earlier that year, which they plan on releasing as a series of self-produced EPs. The second one is now available. I haven’t listened to it yet, although, based on the first one, I’m itching with anticipation.

Chino Moreno’s voice brings everything I adore about Deftones to this project, without all of the stuff that I don’t like. Deftones have always seemed to me like a very undecided band, juggling with a staggering range of influences and only occasionally managing to really bring them together in a truly coherent format. I’m mainly talking about their albums as a whole here, since I feel their individual songs are generally very well written. However, many of their albums seem to perform a very tense, sometimes uncomfortable balancing act between a certain reptilian smoothness, a nocturnal, dangerous, enthralling twist, and a form of overwhelming release of emotion, a brutal, abrasive cacophony which sometimes works, and other times misses. I love their stuff, don’t get me wrong, but it feels like Crosses manages to distill those elements about their music which I love most – the barely broken silence of the whole affair, the slithering, insidious construction of the music, so intense, so mind-bogglingly torrid it sucks the air out of the room. And it’s all the more fascinating since this music is, believe it or not, almost danceable! It reminds me of Mike Patton’s thoughts on his Peeping Tom project, and I’m paraphrasing – music he wishes he heard more on the radio.

I literally can’t quote the names of the songs on this album, since they replaced the “t”s in every word with little crosses, which is, frankly, a bit of a shameless gimmick I see no real point to, but hey, branding is everything, right? However, the fourth track is the best ear-worm I’ve heard all year so far, a perfect culmination to this EP (the last track is more like an outro than anything else) and one of the best songs I’ve ever heard Chino Moreno perform.

I’d recommend the record for that track alone, but the entire effort is rock solid, speaking directly to the viscera in a sickly sweet, confusing, alcoholic way. I’m very glad to have found it all on YouTube, compiled in one long video, so I’ll post that, as well as the usual two songs, for those of you who are in a hurry. Enjoy this mesmerizing, alien, glimmering morsel! I’ll see you soon!

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