Based out of Los Angeles, Claire Cronin is both a musician and a writer, who the world heard from most recently on both her 2019 album, Big Dread Moon, and her 2020, “horror memoir”, Blue Light On The Screen. Less than a year before the pandemic hit, Claire and her husband, the violinist Ezra Buchla moved to Berkeley, California, there they found themselves isolated and in the midst of a terrible wire-fire season, with only making music offering some respite from the harshness of the world outside their windows. The result is Claire’s home-recorded new album, Bloodless, which is out this Friday via Orindal Records.
Bloodless is a record that sets out its stall early, opening with the title track, which deals with themes of transcendence, Claire picturing, “what it’s like to not live in a human body“, yet always finding herself pulled back into reality, and learning how to live with that, “God’s will — if such a thing exists — is a mystery. We have to keep living despite this“. It’s also a stunning introduction to the record’s atmospheric musical world, the constant stomping of the fuzzy bass-drum propels the track forward, as the languid guitars meander like a river, and Claire’s vocal seems to pool around you like a fog, delicate up close, yet somehow inescapable. Claire’s music seems to walk the line between genres, previously described as, “haunted Americana”, it seems to borrow from wherever it feels, from British psych-folk to Southern Gothic, ambient-electronics to Appalachian folk. Particularly wonderful is the recent single, No Forcefield, a song about finding omens in your dreams for a fading relationship, set to waves of rich organ and the steady tick of acoustic guitar, it’s at once deeply personal and rooted in mysticism and the unknown. Elsewhere, Feel This adds a Micah P. Hinson-like dramatic musical flourish to another tale of desire for escapism, “I don’t want to be in my body, what I want is to be beyond me, floating like God”. While the excellent, I Could Not Let Blood, has a soul searching quality present in Fevers And Mirrors-era Bright Eyes, as Claire sings, “give an offering, ex homine, say the names you know your mother’s way, if it’s meaningless transparency, may my loneliness transfigure me”. Perhaps the record reaches an epiphany of sorts as it draws to a close, the finger-picked electric-guitars of Now I Don’t Leave soundtracking a submission of sorts to the fact sometimes things are just hard and the only option is acceptance, “I could not be the ruler of that glory, no blame, no shame, no sorry”. Bloodless is a remarkable record, one where you spot influences and reference points, yet ultimately can only conclude you’re in the presence of a unique visionary, Claire Cronin is crafted entirely in her own image, and it’s something you’re not going to want to miss out on.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Claire Cronin:
I’m a musician and writer. I have a new album called Bloodless, coming November 12th from Orindal Records. Prior releases include Big Dread Moon (Orindal, 2019) and Came Down a Storm, a project with John Dieterich (Ba Da Bing, 2016). I also wrote a book about my obsession with the horror genre called Blue Light of the Screen: On Horror, Ghosts, and God that Repeater Books published last year. I live in Los Angeles with my husband, our baby, and two little black dogs. I was born in LA but moved around a lot between then and now.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I have no idea when that was. I’m one of those people whose parents pushed them into the arts at a very young age. I started playing guitar when I was four and wrote my first song (about a mean dog) in first grade. I had a lot of recitals and talent shows, then started playing open mics and house shows in high school.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I’ve always done other kinds of art, like writing and drawing, so I guess this question is complicated for me. Each medium has its particular appeal. But I think music is the most emotional art form I’ve practiced. Something about using my body to do it — my voice, my hands, me standing on a stage— makes it more vulnerable and immediate. There’s not much to hide behind. I always have this creepy feeling like this might be my last performance, or this might be the last song I ever write. I don’t know why that is. Music feels fragile and dangerous.
I also like that a recorded song can be shared with other people very quickly, easily, inexpensively, and across a great distance. That wouldn’t be the case if you made oil paintings.
FTR: What can people expect from the Claire Cronin live show?
I’m always trying to channel a real feeling. I try to let the song lead me out of myself. I would like to disappear and become an antenna.
FTR: What’s next Claire Cronin?
Well, I’m excited to release Bloodless and I’m hoping to play some shows in the spring, when travel feels safer. I’m making notes towards new songs and writing ideas, but we’ll see where that leads.
They Listen To…
Lucinda Williams – Fruits of My Labor
Vic Chesnutt – West of Rome
Jackson C. Frank – Blues Run the Game
Gillian Welch – Make Me a Pallet On Your Floor
Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans