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' fragile vocals unfold at an unhurried pace, and the music ebbs and flows freely, sometimes swelling up with horns or fuzzy guitars, and occasionally erupting into distorted drumbeats, but none of the elements sound forced or unnecessary. The album's sound brings to mind the production style of Phil Elverum's projects Mount Eerie and the Microphones, using tape manipulation, intimate vocals, and less-than-virtuosic musicianship to construct vast, expressive sonic vistas. While some songs such as the particularly Elverum-esque opener "The Curtains Part" aren't tethered to a consistent rhythm, "Two Rings" builds up with mysterious marimba playing from Swans percussionist Thor Harris before locking into a muscular Krautrock-inspired groove. The brief but powerful "High Rise" drifts from sparse guitar strumming and paper-thin vocals to thundering (but not overwhelming) drums, recalling the dark, apocalyptic beauty of Chelsea Wolfe. The hissing, slowly unraveling "Basket" adds a slow, creeping drum machine pulse and snatches of eerie choral voices to Cross' warbling vocals, ending with a sudden burst of feedback saturation. Wabi Sabi definitely feels like an album that could only have been conceived in an arid desert rather than a bustling city, and the remoteness of the couple's surroundings has certainly made them pay more attention to details and take notice of small, unique things such as the scorpions that adorn the album's cover.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson