ALBUM REVIEW: Cross Tabou – Illusion and Paradise (2015)

a1205294685_2By Del Chaney

California is producing some epic sounds these days, away from the mainstream tripe, and most especially in the psychedelic/shoegaze/dream-pop genres of music. One such act hails from San Jose. A collaboration of two fantastic musicians (the amazing singer-songwriter Miss Sofia Vondell and the equally talented underground artist Horizontal Halfspear), the act has been labelled Cross Tabou and have just released an absolutely stunning collection of five tracks: the epic EP Illusion and Paradise.

Their debut ten track release, Cross Tabou, graced our ears back in September 2014 and quickly became a favourite of the online radio community because of its genre-spanning diversity and psychedelic quality wrapped around the stunning Miss Vondell’s vocals. Illusion And Paradise moves a tentative step forward from their impressive debut and takes the listener on a psychedelic journey, leaning more towards the post-punk/shoegaze side of their sound, but with a more traditional dream-pop highlight.

Track one is straight out of the Velvet Underground songwriters’ handbook. “Last Flight” is absolutely stunning. Vondell’s vocal abilities take the lead, sitting atop a hauntingly beautiful guitar line. This is the entry point to what Cross Tabou can actually achieve — new listeners to their sound will instantly fall in love with them. It’s an amazing intro track.

Sofia Vondell.

Sofia Vondell.

Next up is the brilliant “Into This” — probably my favourite track on this EP, as it alone has everything that I love about this genre of music! Again the spotlight shines firmly on Vondell’s ability to sing. The traditional shoegaze production techniques on the vocals are pushed to one side to allow Sofia the space she deserves up front in the mix. The guitar swells are addictive and that early 90s sounding drum sequence is exquisite! A masterpiece!

A short interlude, the gaze infused instrumental title track, brings us nicely to the industrial sounds of track four, “Writing On Wall.” On my first listen to this track, I could hear Queens Of The Stone Age but without the growl. I kid you not. It opens out into a track with a multitude of things going on within it. Post-punk flair litters its production, and the song has a gothic feel to it too, but it sticks firmly to its psychedelic roots. Sofia Vondell holds it all together with her almost Debbie Harry-like vocal qualities, and the production is expert. “Writing On Wall” is a very cool track and one that needs several listens before it really hits home.

The closing track on Illusion and Paradise has me very intrigued indeed. We’re back to the Velvet Underground theme that captivated early on with the opening track, but with the epic “Void,” there’s something else going on entirely. There is a tiny post-rock edge to this track that is very addictive. Sofia’s almost post-punk vocal lines sitting on the church organ are immense. It harks back to the hazy days of experimental LSD and full-on factory parties. A truly captivating track — this is church music for the damned. Immense!

Overall, Illusion and Paradise is a stunning piece of work by a collaborating duo who have plenty more in the tank to give. I’ll expect to hear more from this band towards the end of this year, and I know, individually, they are in the midst of releasing an incredible body of solo work too. Do go and support them:

DEL CHANEY is a self-confessed music freak and is never far away from a turntable. He divides his time between fronting popular electronic band Analogue Wave and uncovering and actively promoting artists from all over the globe in the shoegaze, dream pop, noise-rock, & post-rock genres with The Primal Music Blog and The Primal Radio Show. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, Del is a keen vinyl collector, tattoo fan, & all round good guy.


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