by Philip Moss
As free spirited as it is melodic, Don’t Shy Away is equal parts seance and song
From the opening moments of blissed out synths, there is a patience to I Fix My Gaze – and within less than 40 seconds, Emily Cross calls out, ‘I begin to see the beauty,’ as if it her own record about which she is making the remark. For Don’t Shy Away is nothing if not a spectacular, sprawling affair.
Like the flowering succulent from which it takes its name, first single, Ocotillo is a wonder that leaves you wide eyed. Its pulsating rhythmic hook is different to anything else in the Loma, or Cross Record canon. Its guitars growl, its saxophones swirl like kaleidoscopes that have an acid filled mind of their own, and Cross’ voice wanders through the stuttering ether.
Don’t Shy Away sees the experimentations of Cross’ last solo LP, Cross Record, reigned in. Blue Rainbow comes the closest – marking a moment where the three piece throw a little caution to the wind and let the arrangement head more towards the erratic. But where the songs on Cross Record felt like bits of different sized fabric soldered together, here, most of the parts slot together comfortably like a jigsaw; the choral layers of Elliptical Days, and the ambient textures of Brian Eno’s mix on closer, Homing, allowing Cross’ melodies to linger on loop – long after the record comes to a close – even if the messages get lost in the dreamy fog.
Bigger in scope than the three piece’s self titled debut, Don’t Shy Away is on a whole other sonic level. It encourages us to not just exist in the spaces that we inhabit, but to find every possibility they could offer. As second records go, they don’t come much more mesmerically splendorous than this.
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