The return of ††† (which we’ll be writing as ‘Crosses’ for the duration of the review, for pronunciation and typographical convenience) has notably felt a bit muted through their drip-fed singles over the last couple of years, maybe because they’ve often felt like something of an underwhelming side-project in the past. Okay, ‘underwhelming’ is probably the wrong word; ‘predictable’ is probably more apt, especially when they’ve often come across like an extended limb of Chino Moreno’s Deftones work. It’s often solid, but it’s not like their 2014 self-titled debut has persisted, removed from comparisons to witch-house that have often been emphasised as merely aesthetic, and left with a more airy, less structured version of the usual oeuvre.
Permanent.Radiant, on the other hand, is a sufficiently different animal. It comes from the new pared-down form of Crosses, now as the two-piece of just Moreno and Far’s Shaun Lopez, in which a bit more creative openness and density abounds. It certainly feels willfully encroaching upon something of its own, opting for deeper electronic-rock veins buoyed by increased variety in textures and hip-hop overtones. At the same time, it’s also more of a sampler than a defined reinvention, or even the scattered creative musings of a man with as many feathers in his cap as Moreno does.
In either case, Permanent.Radiant does do a fair bit to differentiate this current incarnation of Crosses. Right from the start, that becomes evident; Sensation’s fluttering, beeping pulse soon roars into its heavy percussion. Elsewhere, there’s the belly-dragging groan of Vivien, and the choppy clatter of Day One taking cues from the most contemporary branches of Latin and urbano music from an artist like Rosalía. Basically, Crosses are in no way coy about how far-reaching they currently are. It makes for a cool concoction overall, in a splatterpaint approach to sound in which the crossovers are fringe, but do generally make sense to be next to each other. The snappy lopping-off of the ‘rock’ suffix from Crosses’ ‘alternative’ is entirely the plan, for a careening, genreless collection of six tracks operating entirely on its own accord.
Still, Crosses aren’t without their throughlines, in the sonic palettes and signatures that act as the clearest similarities. The Deftones DNA can also be found here, mostly in the murky beds of synth that wind up more muted as a whole, though purposely so. It’s allowing the sharper edges of the production to define themselves, mostly in how the drums and processed beats can hit a quasi-industrial space for Cadavre Exquis and especially Holier. On the whole, it’s not so much subsuming as knowing how to balance itself effectively; the fracturing sometimes feels part of the point when Crosses inhabit the area between industrial, darkwave, electronica and alternative, never at the extremes of either but not spreading themselves too thinly either.
You do get the impression of them trying to skirt around any major ‘Deftones-lite’ accusations with all that, even at points where they wouldn’t be totally unfounded. Granted, Moreno’s presence on any of his headed projects can hijack them to fit that mood, and it’s not like Permanent.Radiant is fully exempt of that. His voice and ethereal, astral lyrics combined with this pace will ultimately do that, though a big caveat with that is how it always seems to fit well into place. It’s still a unique, unusual method of delivery in alternative music, the injection of dream-pop loftiness that the newfound flexibility of Crosses is more than capable of accommodating.
On the whole, it’s the well-roundedness of Permanent.Radiant that finds it landing as often and as well as it does. There’s a freedom to it that’s explored well, leaving negative space and areas still to venture towards, but without feeling unsatisfying for them being there. If anything, it’s fitting for a project that can lie dormant without fully dissipating, and just slide back into place as is their wont, the low-key creative charm that seems to be driving and colouring this new era with a lot of momentum. It’s the most outwardly auspicious that Crosses have felt, perhaps ever, as a clear open-endedness sets in inevitably more strong stuff to come.
For fans of: Deftones, The Black Queen, Failure
‘Permanent.Radiant’ by ††† (Crosses) is released on 9th December on Warner Music.
Words by Luke Nuttall