For the seasoned traveller, the journey is often a mere means to the destination. For many others, boarding a plane or crossing an ocean can still produce a thrill. Regardless of disposition, all travellers treat their journey like an airlock – a bubble in which to acclimatize to a new normal. The rituals of well-worn routine discarded. Life held in suspense.
In the crossing, the third LP by UK-based Dextro, charts this state of transition. And, like many journeys, its start is frantic. Within seconds, “Evacuate” evokes a sense of both movement and inevitability, building momentum with a looped, flanged synth melody and a frenetic beat whose delivery via brushes creates a sense of restraint. The passage cuts out after a minute as a chimed guitar interrupts, but briefly – the pulse soon returns; the traveller is restless.
But this opener deceives. After such a flurry, second track “Amor Fati” essentially starts the record again (it would make an effective opener on many other albums). The longest track at over six-and-a-half minutes, it seems to mimic a sun slowly rising to pour its warmth over vacuous, uncertain terrain – the sort of landscape Barn Owl so effectively call to mind. From the title, which translates roughly as ‘love for your fate’, one derives the sense of embracing the unknown regardless of how it manifests – in essence, feeling comfort in your vulnerability. Dextro’s instrument of choice here is the piano, sprinkling its fragility over layers of soft synth. Cold and distant, the ivories are replaced beyond the halfway mark by acoustic guitar, softer and warming. The sun has prevailed.
Droning passages form the bedrock of Dextro’s exploratory excursions, but this isn’t a drone record. Aside from the opener, two other tracks reveal the artist’s love of infectious rhythms, positioned just as things threaten to wax amorphous. “Break off” is backed by reverb-laden guitar strumming, above which a sketchy, distorted synth rhythm cavorts with a pounding, syncopated beat. Later, “The passage” contains more ambient textures, but the levity is punctured by the bluntness of the 4/4 beat, this time grooving with a bass line.
Surrounding such grounded, dance-infused moments, and closing the record, are more-vaporous tracks that drift through clouds of drone, electronica and psychedelic post-rock. Most successful is vocal-tinted “Silent”, which lacks any obvious melody on which to focus and so, ironically, seems to most clearly delineate the impression of an ever-shifting landscape before us. The brooding, piano-led closer “Occupy”, with its echoes of latter-day 65daysofstatic, could be seen as a farewell to the sun we greeted in the second track – a pleasing constant in a record of much change.
The greatest success of In the crossing is how it mimics the transience inherent in its subject matter, constantly shifting through genres and wrenching our focus from the background to the foreground, from the ground to the sky. (Chris Redfearn)