Darren Cross made his name as a founding member of collage pop provocateurs Gerling but these days he’s one half of folk noir duo Jep and Dep and a solo artist trading in dark avant-folk. Surprisingly, this is Cross’ debut solo album and in many ways it embraces his past and present musical explorations with a world weary and cynical assessment of modern life.
At the heart of his music are folk songs – melancholy, plaintive and downbeat in the vein of Nick Drake, Beck, Neil Young and Bill Callahan – yet he has found clever and unobtrusive ways to incorporate samples, synths, drum machines and effects that add a dystopian, sci-fi quality to the music. ‘Highway Lights In The Night’ squelches along on a big beat with a Springsteen undercurrent, while ‘Time Destroys The Innocence’ includes a synthetic backing vocal, echoing both Air and Trans-era Neil Young.
Cross isn’t afraid to take an honest and unflinching swing at his own life experiences and the world as he sees it. He sings about the threats to digital privacy, corporate creep and gentrification. This might sound heavy and overbearing but there is a strong feeling of graceful ambience and reassurance that emerges from the warm intimacy of the music. _Xantastic is folktronica at its most humanistic.