My thoughts on “chronicle”, the first mini-album from CROSSNOESIS.
Release Date: September 29th 2019
3. In the Dark
Depending on how closely you follow the ins and outs of the Idol scene, the name CROSSNOESIS may mean something to you or it may mean nothing at all. Well, perhaps the name HAMIDASYSTEM might mean a bit more to you if you happen to fall into that latter category and no I’m not talking about the current version of the group that’s presently rocking a 2 member line-up. I’m going to need you guys to cast your minds back a little bit further than that.
You see, CROSSNOESIS is the “original” HAMIDASYSTEM line-up but under a new name and performing new songs. BEET has also been replaced by new member LAKE but outside of that this is pretty much the same line-up that the old HAMIDASYSTEM had before they were rebooted for whatever reason. A pretty weird situation I’m sure we can all agree, but I think it’s pretty awesome that this group of girls have mostly stuck together and are continuing to create new music together.
“chronicle” is the first mini-album to be released by the group and it’s also probably going to be the first chance people will get to hear this new material, outside of a SoundCloud demo or two that were released earlier in the year. Most of you are probably curious to hear what this new project sounds like and I’m eager to take a proper listen myself. Apparently they’re still being produced by sayshine who writes for HAMIDASYSTEM as well so maybe that means something or maybe it doesn’t. The only way to find out is to hit play and get this review going.
The aptly titled “cross” gets things underway with a pretty upbeat and bright sounding synthesizer melody so we’re definitely not drifting too far into uncharted territory initially at least. The melody slowly starts to be absorbed by the song’s drumbeat which they did using a pretty smooth transition that I thought was pretty cool. Shortly after that the vocals come in and I had a moment of terror thinking I was going to be subjected to yet more grain filters but thankfully that didn’t end up coming to pass. Instead we’re treated to fairly natural sounding vocals, though rather sporadically as the instrumental shifts into a slightly deeper tone, but still for the most part upbeat. Just before the mid-point of the song things take on a fuzzier, more distorted style that accompanies a rather impassioned monologue before things really mellow out and become brighter again. I really liked the ambient synth tones they used in the background for this part, though the more prominent melody was a little bit too sharp in comparison. More great clean vocals and some lovely harmonizing more than make up for that here though, with CROSSNOESIS looking to remind everyone just how good they are as vocalists. To close out the song we get a bit of a blend of everything featured so far, which might sound a bit chaotic but it actually worked out pretty well and tied the song together nicely. Good stuff.
“Zan’ya” heads off in a totally different direction to this mini-album’s lead track, opting to open with an instrumental that I can only really describe as laying somewhere in between Orchestral and Trance in its musical style. That’s a weird thing to say but you do get that sweeping orchestral feeling while a synth beat is pounding in your ears. Speaking of which, there’s a static sounding part of this opening instrumental that sort of sounds like a loose thread that probably doesn’t have to be where it is. My opinion of course but it was a little bit distracting. Things mellow out a tad from this point and we’re treated to a song that is pretty much a Ballad from a vocal standpoint, with the CROSSNOESIS members once again delivering some rather pleasant clean notes along with more great harmonies. There’s a little bit of post production on the vocals here but it’s not taking away anything and if anything it’s probably helping bring the song together by matching vocal tone with instrumental tone. The song never really goes too far from where it started off from but it’s a pretty nice listen and there’s some cool moments both in the instrumental as well as the vocals. Not totally my type of thing as you all know but I found plenty to enjoy that it kept my attention throughout.
Somewhat surprisingly, “In the Dark” does actually keep to its title by opening with a pretty gloomy instrumental complete with what I would describe as a light “rain filter” to really set the mood. The vocals proceed to further expand on this, delivered in an emotional but still somewhat melancholic way with low, natural sounding tones being a key feature of how this is all achieved. The song gets a little bit more energetic with the introduction of a Jazz-infused Maison book girl style beat which I thought was pretty interesting if not perhaps a little out of place upon first hearing it but once it beds in I think it really adds an extra something to the instrumental. Things pick up further still during the chorus which has a positively energetic beat compared to the rest of the song. The vocals remain pretty melancholic and gloomy though, but they do have bit more energy and tempo to their delivery so it’s a welcome change of pace compared to what we’d been hearing up to that point. That’s kind of the story of the song, outside of a fairly long interlude that probably didn’t have to be there but admittedly featured some cool synthesizer work. It’s an interesting take on the darker, emotive style of song and just an interesting song in general so I’d definitely suggest that you check it out.
Google reliably informs me that a “Petricole” is “an organism that inhabits or prefers rocky terrain”. It’s also now apparently the title of an Idol song but to give CROSSNOESIS some credit the field recording sample that they use at the start of this track does create the idea of being outside in nature so at least in that regard it kinda fits. Eventually the main instrumental gets itself up and running, taking on a pretty light tone with guitar, percussion and some sparkles being what I would personally consider to be some of the more prominent features. It’s a fairly relaxing composition with nothing too intense or overly energetic involved and in a lot of ways it’s a pretty neat contrast with the track that came just before it. Interestingly enough, the vocals aren’t overly bright and high pitched which might come as a surprise to some of you. It kinda did to me to be honest, as I wasn’t expecting such natural sounding vocals to feature on a track like this. It worked pretty well here though and I sorta wish that more groups would consider taking this approach because this feels like a more balanced song than it otherwise might have. When you have vocalists as good as this, why waste it by pitch shifting everything in post? Not a bad track as far as slower songs go, in my opinion at least.
The mini-album’s fifth track “skit” isn’t actually a skit at all, it’s an instrumental interlude. I can take or leave this sort of thing in all honesty though I kinda get it from a conceptual viewpoint. There isn’t a ton to say about this one, it’s an interesting enough piece with some nice ambient synth tones that accompany a bit of percussion with a bit of reverb added into the mix to give a bit of depth to things. I don’t think it would have hurt to put a vocal line or two in but it’d fairly skippable either way. Not trying to hate on the group or their producer, this track just is what it is and that’s okay.
One might expect a song with a title like “Hakumei” to be a bit gloomy or dark and moody but in actuality this song only slightly leans into the “dark” idea that its name conjures up. The song starts out slow and deliberate, with a drumbeat that is low in tone along with some dulled synthesizer beats. After a light build-up and a drop of sorts the tempo and energy pick up quite a bit and we’re presented with a pretty catchy synthesizer melody that still retains just a little bit of that dark edge the song started off with. This gets snuffed out when the vocals eventually make their appearance, with the song settle back down into a similar tone to the one that it started off with. A good call in my opinion as it allowed the lower, almost whispery vocals to establish themselves as the instrumental began to slowly build itself back up behind them. Things never quite hit the same heights as they did earlier in the song instrumentally but the vocals do grown into the track have some nice power behind them by the time the tempo has built itself back up. That’s kind of how it goes for the rest of the song, though there was a slight element of distortion introduced towards the end which while I don’t think was necessary did freshen things up just enough to stop the listener’s attention from beginning to wander.
I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly expecting a Shoegazey, Dream Pop style song to appear on this mini-album but that’s definitely the direction that seventh track “seed” starts heading off in and I can’t say that I found myself complaining too much either. The warm fuzz from the guitars accompanied by a poppy synthesizer melody make up the bulk of the instrumental though a light drumbeat is introduced as things move along as well. These elements may sound fairly simple but the way the tempo shifts throughout the song and the subtle changes to the synthesizer melody are what really make this track come alive and become more than just a fuzz pedal and a synthesizer going through the motions for just over 5 minutes. On the vocal side of things CROSSNOESIS keep things fairly light, which matches up with the mood set by the instrumental but there is a bit more oomph to the delivery than what one might have come to expect from similar songs in this style. A more natural delivery than the whispery or high pitched styles often called upon for songs like this but it definitely doesn’t sound out of place at all and I quite liked the extra bit of emotion that this stylistic choice afforded the delivery of the lyrics. Dreamy Shoegaze fans, this one is for you unless you’re one of those people with standards so high no one could possibly hope to meet them.
Penultimate track “Incarnation” opens with some pretty nice synth tones that have a rich quality to them while still maintaining a pretty bright tone. There’s also a mild glitch effect going on too in the form of a tape track or something along similar lines which was a nice little touch I thought. Bright, clean vocals are introduced fairly quickly into the song and they really work rather well with what they’ve done with the synthesizers here. A low, mildly bassy drumbeat is eventually introduced and for whatever reason they decide to play around with a bunch of cymbals and some distortion for a little bit before the song settles back into a slightly more upbeat version of the instrumental that it opened with. A bit odd seeing as they never fully return to this idea for the rest of the song but mild elements of it do creep back in from time to time so I guess if the intention was to set that up then fair enough I suppose. While all of this is going on the vocals get a much more subdued, perhaps even melancholic treatment with noticeably less energy being output compared to the instrumental. This does provide us with some pretty nice higher pitched deliveries and more than a couple of impressively constructed and delivered lines however so definitely positives to be taken from here too. A pretty interesting song that has a lot going on while still remaining cohesive.
Closing out CROSSNOESIS’s first mini-album is “previously” which is the shortest track on the whole release if we don’t count the little interlude that we had in the middle there. The opening instrumental, comprised of percussion and synthesized woodwind instruments, once again creates this idea of being outside in nature or at least it did for me anyway. A little bit of a theme for this release it seems. It ends up morphing into something vaguely resembling a Maison book girl number by way of a slightly abrasive and somewhat video game inspired synthesizer melody that gives the instrumental a bit more depth that it wouldn’t have had had they opted to stick with the ideas introduced at the beginning of the track. The vocal performance is pretty much that of a Ballad so I suppose they did manage to sneak another one in here eventually, not that I’m in any way suggesting that it’s a bad thing or anything like that. It’s a nice melodic performance that mixes low and higher pitches to give a bit of variety to the lyrics and when you couple all of that with the instrumental it makes for a pretty entertaining listen even for someone like me who isn’t normally super into this sort of style. A nice note to end things off on and another example of a style of song that CROSSNOESIS can pull off very well indeed.
“chronicle” serves as a pretty wide ranging reintroduction to what many will still likely consider to be the former HAMIDASYSTEM. I wouldn’t say that CROSSNOESIS is a direct continuation, at least in a musical sense as there are several differences between the styles of both projects. That said, if you were a fan of these girls when they were in HAMIDASYSTEM then you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting into their new group providing you don’t come in expecting everything to be exactly the same bar the name.
You can add CROSSNOESIS to the growing list of groups that I’ll be keeping tabs on in 2020 as I definitely heard some pretty interesting stuff on this mini-album. It’ll be interesting to see if they try to focus their sound a bit more or just continue to experiment with all of the different styles that a synthesizer brings to the table. Either way I’m looking forward to their next release whenever it might come along and I’m sure that a lot of people be of a similar mindset.