Milton Cross is a member of the San Francisco group Tarentel, among other things. His talents permeate their sprawling recordings, adding endless amounts of richness and warmth. None of this has changed on his latest, self-released solo album, "Light in the West." It feels like something unearthed from another time period, wholly intact, and magnificently beautiful.
The stunning, heart-breaking opener, "It's Been Almost a Year," is full of regret and longing. Simple, methodic violin notes etch pictures in the air. As multiple violins flicker like waterbirds in the sky, you feel surrounded by the coming dawn, the inevitable realization that this period in your life is over and you have to move on. Cross carefully chooses each note to drive the point home. At times it's reminiscent of Max Richter's brilliant "Blue Notebooks," but Cross thrives in this stripped down setting. "It's Been Almost a Year" is a masterpiece.
These complex emotional passages continue throughout this album. "Mountain Pulses" writhes in bubbling, droning guitars. The notes seethe from the ether, accented by haunted violin passages, chasing you down a dark and winding path. There's something sordid under the surface here, but Cross keeps it all together and never lets whatever's stalking you get too close. It's a delicate balance, but he doesn't falter.
Everything comes to a head on the harmonium drenched, sonic sunrise "Light In The West Where It Will Always Be Morning." Scraped strings and heady bass break the horizon as the first rays of the morning sun. This track is devastating. It is the beginning and the end, wrapped into a singular, dazzling moment. It's like being lifted up above the chaos, before being dropped down right smack in the middle.
Milton Cross shows a lot of skill on "Light in the West," and it's an album with endless layers to dissect and digest. Full of organic details and spacious drones, there's something on this record for everyone. I would guess this is somewhat limited, and trust me when I say you don't want to miss out. This comes highly recommended. 9/10 -- Brad Rose (28 June, 2006)