Victor-Andres Cruz feels that he has lived two different lives.

Rather than make an album that reflects one of the two, Cruz attempted to capture both. In his EP Alusión, Cruz makes music that represents his unsettling move at the age of 12 from Colombia to the United States. The album’s seven tracks, three of which are in Spanish and four of which are in English, mix the musical experiences of his Colombian childhood with those of his New England adult life. The album features an unusual mix of folkloric influences and modern indie-folk through which Cruz, who calls his solo project Vic and the Crux, expresses the dichotomy between the two halves of his life.

The album opens with “La Vereda”, a song that creates the environment in which the singer spins his tales. The track opens with a single acoustic guitar, which is soon joined by layer upon layer, a thick quilt, of ethereal electric and acoustic guitars played in a variety of rhythms. The listener hears chords sporadically strum on some guitars, and a single note repeated over and over on others, together distorting the sense of time.

And the guitars are amplified with a variety of textures. Some sound so crisp and clean it’s as if they’re being strummed while held against your ear. Others echo and disperse, a sonorous bubble bath. This plethora of sounds with no perceivable rhythm creates a soundscape like those heard on Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. The crisper guitars produce silvan images of pine needles and spruce trees, while the more ambient sounds create the sensation of floating above it all on a cloud.

But the entrance of the rhythm section and vocals in “La Vereda” creates a new setting entirely, one more reminiscent of Cruz’ Latin roots. Cruz’ voice enters first, and it is surprisingly clear and unadulterated relative to the effect-laden guitars. The first sign of his Latin roots is superficial – the Spanish lyrics. But the deeper influences are soon made evident by the drums and bass.

A sharp percussive beat emphasizes the second beat and the off-beat of the second beat, while the bass emphasizes beats three and one. This rhythm suggests a dance-like quality that adds an intensity to a song that otherwise feels like a ballad. The percussion and bass express similar dichotomies throughout the album, such as in “Till The Time Ends,” creating the impression that multiple opinions are being expressed at the same time. The combination of dance and ballad is also repeated throughout the album, such as in the song “Dreaming.”

The melodies in the album are distinctly folk, specifically in that they don’t follow expected patterns. The contours of the melodies are unpredictable and the vocal rhythms often ignore those of the rhythm section, giving the listener the sense that the singer and the band are two distinct entities.

But the melodies are atypical for stories in that they lack the conventional climaxes, the ups and downs. They are often slow and drawn out, longing and yearning, but unsure of their direction, contrasting with the more confident rhythm section. The melodies don’t carry you in the same way the instrumental sections do, and their lack of resolve can be unsatisfying at times. The lyrics reinforce this sentiment of uncertainty. “Dreaming” begins with the singer following a trail: “I walk through the meadow/I follow the dusty path/I hear your call,” but ends lost: “I dance with your shadow/I’m dreaming alone.” 

Each song on the album embraces all sorts of contradictions. But the album as whole doesn’t contradict itself, as one voice takes the listener on an honest musical journey that sounds worth following.

Album Review: Vic and the Crux- Alusión
Pros
  • Impressive and tastefully layered guitars
  • Unique mix of Latin and indie folk
  • Earnest presentation
Cons
  • Melodies don’t vary enough
  • Individual melodies lack an interesting structure
6.9Overall Score

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