Infinity Crush’s Warmth Equation is almost synesthetic — you can imagine seeing the music in little sunbursts, a color palette filtered through a spinning prism in a dusty room.
The album is the first full-length release from 23-year-old Maryland native Caroline White, whose stage name is a fitting for a musician whose most powerful instrument may be her crushingly sad-sweet voice.
The album’s first half starts on a mellow but inviting note with “Drowning here with all my friends,” which moves into — literally — “Everything being still,” a chant-ish, ethereal track that insists, “I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light” and “you were mine, you were mine, you were mine, you were mine,” before pulling back and simply snuffing out. “Lilacs” enters with some dissonance and feedback, and evokes the feeling of coming out of a blackout (“when I see you I’m so dizzy”) — then all of a sudden everything is much clearer — the feedback breaks and again we’re left only with White’s voice.
“In terms of writing process — this collection of songs, if they have anything in common it’s the way that they were written, it was kind of urgent.”
That trance seems meant to prepare us for the record’s midpoint, “Wipe Down,” which is gutting — and understandably so. White says the song, more than any of the others, directly addresses the loss of her father, who died three years ago and to whom the album is dedicated.
“Hurt, hurt, hurt until it starts to feel right,” she sings. “Sleep, sleep, sleep until this dream is over and we’ll go back to normal … I still think you’re coming home/so you can see how much I’ve grown.”
“I think there’s a lot of pressure when you’re trying to write about a heavy subject or loss because you’re like, ‘OK, I have to do this justice and by trying to do this justice am I trying to do this person justice?’ and it’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself to achieve,” she says.
White says it wasn’t until recording the track for the seventh time that she felt like it could rest.
When she writes, though, the process is more immediate and in-the-moment.
“I have to do it [all at once] or I’ll never finish the song. And I think that there’s some kind of truth in that, you know, like, emotional truth at least. Like, ‘This is exactly what I can make right now, what I can capture of what I’m feeling.’ I think there’s some kind of honesty in that, something kind of pure about it.”
The overall result is something unrefined, but highly articulate; a threading of lo-fi lullabies. Classical sensibilities — White is trained in French horn and viola — exist in the turns and sonic references from song to song, while poetic line breaks sneak into the lyric delivery.
“Tracks were kind of all over the place in a lot of different ways, both stylistically and also where they were recorded, how they were recorded, and physically in different places,” says White. “In terms of [the] writing process — this collection of songs, if they have anything in common it’s the way that they were written. It was kind of urgent.”
The second half of the album is a decided shift from the first. The stillness ends and the songs pick up a little punch, with light percussion filling in some of the spaces. Lyrically, too, there’s a bit more attitude, with lines like “I’m so over you/not being over me.”
On the final track, “Heaven” — which has taken other forms before the version on the album — Infinity Crush pulls inside again, to that slow whirl of a prismatic world that may or may not exist.
Infinity Crush will be touring this November in D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston.