Claire Cronin’s Bloodless was written and recorded during the wildfire season of 2020 with the help of her husband and violinist Ezra Buchla. In the solitude of the pandemic and the kiln of apocalyptic fire raging around them, the record came together through a process of sifting through the embers of fear and wringing out the droplets of a hopeless panic that soaked through the wide, flat surface of each day spent in their domestic forging-furnace. Penned in consort with the angels and devils of Claire’s conscience and pride, Bloodless is a restrained and mesmeric encounter, one that bears the imprint of the transfiguration of circumstances under which it was conceived and given form. It is a hypnotic country album that is not furtive about its origins and baneful birth or its reflection of the terror and valor with which we meet each new day.
The dark, earthen spiritualism of Bloodless is evident from the outset, opening with the title track, it meditates on the nature of incorporeal spirits whose will is not constained by the limits of their flesh, musings which are bathed in the dawning hue of a skeletal chord progression and a golden flood of warm, sturring string accompaniments. Later, millenarian imagery emerges through the vision of shapeshifting archons on “Snakes for Angels” where a pillar of hymnal choir sounds illuminates Claire’s contemplative guitar playing, easing the number into a saintly repose. Further on, “No Forcefield” soberly pierces the veil of deathly effigies, which come in the form of shrowded artillery, twisted old furniture, and funeral attire, uncovering in the process a renewed perspective and reason to live. More direct encounters with death are depicted within the cold, churning prognoses of “I Could Not Let Blood,” while the haunting “Feel This” exhibits an almost paralyzing outflow of emotion, almost like Claire is attempting to extirpate herself from her body through the exorcise of song.
Themes of rejuvenation are recurrent on the Bloodless as well, albeit in somewhat aberrant forms, such as the drifting passage of “To Ferry Across,” which reads like a message slipped into a full bottle of wine and buried in an orchard so that it may grow into a robust and gnarled tree, which drips with libations instead of sap and whose fruit has the texture of kittens fur and is flavored a with intoxicating nectar for some, and saltpeter for others. Bloodless is an album that captures the uncanny reality and long death that we all took part in, during a year of tumult and trepidation, but also triumph and stubborn sufferance. For many, last year is still a burning haze, the smoke and soot of which may cling to our memories of those long and lonely days until they too pass to the other side of the river Styx. Bloodless is an account from a corroborating witness to a period of bad omens and smoldering scrouges, the scaring heat of which has yet to leave our bone.
Buy and stream Bloodless below via Bandcamp: