Claire Cronin may not be a household name, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t accomplished. A published/award-winning poet with an MFA from the University Of California, Irvine, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D in creative writing at the University of Georgia, the Athens-based musician has been home recording and self-releasing albums of original material since high school. Last September, Bad A Bing Records released Over And Through, a collection of these older tracks, on cassette and digital formats in preparation of her brand new album for the label, which hits shelves this Friday, May 6th. A collaboration with Deerhoof guitarist, John Dieterich, Came Down A Storm is a project that came about after the pair met at a Los Angeles show and began crafting songs together long-distance, from their respective states. Concepts and recordings were emailed between the two for a year, before Cronin made the trip to record the work at Dieterich‘s home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Claire Cronin‘s voice is a fascinating one, at once smoky and worn, it maintains a brittle fragility, oozing like thick golden honey, and dipping in and out of moments that are purely angelic. On the song “Valentine,” it comes through like softly glowing steam, gradually ascending higher and higher until the track hits its conclusion. “In The Field,” which precedes that tune on the release, offers something much different, as her quivering phrases drift and twist like a paper boat at the mercy of a lethargic current. “Dark Water” singes the edges of that same paper vessel as it buoys down a river of crackling magma, the static eventually dissipating into a foundation of piano for her vocals to climb onto in a brief, yet powerful and haunting moment, at the end. And it’s a power that often steps out just enough to allow its potential to be known. Her lyrics glide throughout the album affected by the music, but remain unwavering; the surrounding elements bend her words, but they are rooted enough to welcome that interplay without fear of breaking, or being submerged indefinitely. As someone who has left it streaming on a loop while preparing this post, I find it remarkable how this album becomes increasingly beautiful the more that I take it in. There is an ever present cloud looming over these songs, both lyrically and sonically, and this is especially true on”Dreamt The Sea,” which is as eerie and brooding as anything that you’re likely to come across this side of a John Carpenter soundtrack. That being said, this release is really more about the light that shines through these tracks, something that illuminates them more and more, each time they are cycled through. The rough edges become smoothed out and polished; the billowy tendrils, unyielding stalks, not despite the storm that has been weathered, but because of it. The temperatures shift and mutate on this effort, allowing it to capture, overlap, and integrate a number of complex emotions and textures in an incredibly soluble and organic fashion, often, all at once.
In 2011, I had the opportunity to interview Brian Degraw of Gang Gang Dance in advance of the band’s last studio album, Eye Contact, and, knowing that he’s spoken of experiencing various forms of art in a way similar to synesthesia, I asked him if he could describe the LP in terms of visual aesthetic. His response was that he saw it “like a very darkly colored egg that bleeds iridescent colors once you crack it open.” It’s a description that has continually resurfaced in my mind, while listening to Came Down A Storm.
Dieterich‘s influence exposes itself immediately on the opening track, “The Unnatural,” most notably when a delicately shrieking guitar washes over it. But what’s really impressive is how such “unorthodox” decisions, which can often become cliche when allowed to overstay their welcome, are deployed so flawlessly on this release. His influence appears, but disappears even more naturally, manifesting itself more in the way that it has managed to redirect and broaden his partner’s sound, and vice versa. Cronin‘s voice is a noticeable strength that follows her from her solo work, but the employment of a full band forces her incredibly capable guitar work to take a back seat here in the most satisfying way. The ebb and flow of Came Down A Storm, alone, is impressive, with each one of these tracks being crafted in a way that allows the singer to discover new, refreshing, and wondrous ways to permeate them with her voice and expand on the emotional range in a way that she had previously only been able to hint at in her more stripped down singer/songwriter format. I can’t say enough about this collaboration and how effortless it feels in it’s construction, with both John and Claire remaining within the sound, trusting the tunes, and never trying to overpower them, or restrict their parameters. It’s not designed to beat you over the head on first listen. This is time-lapse erosion in audio form. A collaboration in the truest sense, what the pair has created is something new and incredible for each of them. It’s the type of project where you get the feeling that they recognize that, but that neither of them may be exactly sure how many outside of it will.
Additional instrumentation on the release are provided by Ezra Buchla (Chelsea Wolfe), Chris Vatalaro (Antibalas, Matana Roberts, Sam Amidon) and Heather Trost (A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Beirut). Buchla will also be playing guitar and electronics to fill out Cronin’s melodies, as she heads out on tour later this month. Check out her complete list of current tour dates, after the following album stream.
Came Down A Storm can be pre-ordered on CD and LP now through Ba Da Bing Records, HERE.
5/21 – Joyful Noise – Indianapolis, IN – with Palehound, Ursula – Tickets
5/24 – Elastic Arts – Chicago, IL – with TALsounds – Tickets
5/26 – The Jam Handy – Detroit, MI – with Double Winter, Izzy Johnson – Tickets
5/31 – House Show – Ithaca, NY
6/1 – Union Pool – Brooklyn, NY – with Katie Von Schleicher, Cassandra Jenkins – Tickets
6/4 – The Brick House – Turner Falls, MA – with Chris Cohen – Tickets
6/9 – The Plough and Stars – Cambridge, MA
6/12 – House Show – Washington, DC
6/24 – Elsewhere – Greensboro, NC – Tickets