Settling back in L.A. after several immense Diamond Eyes generated tours, Deftones front man Chino Moreno, has teamed up with longtime friend and Far, guitarist Shaun Lopez to form the group +++(Crosses). The trio also includes producer/audio engineer Chuck Doom, who layers and links the live and electronic phrases of drums, keys, and guitar that paint each track. Lopez eventually joined in on working with Doom to produce the tracks for Crosses, an atmospheric blend of Indietronica with metal influences that recalls a hazy mixture of absinthe and Ecstasy (add in Chino’s dreamy vocal element and Crosses steers toward trance-rock territory).
EP++, released earlier this year, is Crosses’s second EP, internet release and is available in a deluxe edition, which features five songs, demo seeds, front and back cover art, a digital booklet and in-studio video. Upon listening toEP++, you'll immediately noticed a conceptual approach (EP+ has a more disconnected demo feel in between tracks). Instrumentally, this concept is realized by the steady minimalist/lo-fi tonality felt from start to finish. EP++’s feel is also branded by its recurring lyrical themes. There is a beginning, an end and a story in between. The first track appropriately titled “Frontier” has a cinematic onset. The speaker, (which seems to be the same character throughout the record) offers the subject benediction for his/her enigmatic ways as they embark on a journey towards enlightenment. Echoed synth notes accompanied by a slow tempo electric drum riff are then smeared by a high treble latent guitar phrase in this premise’s noir intro. In comes Chino’s crooning vocals that build toward a cathartic refrain of heavy guitar and bass. This would adhere to the typical Alt Rock/Rock Ballad formula if Chino’s voice didn’t ascend into an ethereal whale moan supported by Chris Robyn’s (also of Far) heaving acoustic drumbeat that joins creating an elegantly gritty shoegaze ambiance. The other four songs keep up this dreamy sythrock style by maintaining similar instrumental arrangements and tempos at around 90 BPM. Lyrically, the songs continue to depict the speaker’s journey, traversing a range of existential circumstances redolent with Christian iconography while always beckoning an elusive “you.” With each song, the listener enters a climactic situation where the subject is given an ultimatum or offered a choice that promises, solace… enlightenment.
This cast of veteran musicians (Chino with the Deftones & Team Sleep, Shaun and Chris with Far and contributing Velvet Revolver/Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan) knowledgeably maneuvers the studio, choreographing striking indie records in a matter of weeks devoid of the “produced in my bedroom” feel that has become synonymous with electronically influenced music. Both EPs have been one-hundred percent produced by the band at their own pace and without interference from record companies. This independence is important to Chino, who has mentioned that album expectations and marketing generated hype ruined the concept he was aiming for with previous project Team Sleep. For many Deftones fans, Crosses represents a resurgence of Chino’s own creative insights (The electronic basis and mystical themes are also major elements in Team Sleep). Organic and commercial free, the sanctity of Crosses represents a truly artistic expression from all its members and is very much worth cherishing.