Opening with ‘Departed’, Louise McVey & Cracks in the Concrete start the way they opt to continue with Under the Heart.
This opening track sounds as though you’re walking in on it halfway through, as if you were late, the vocals are eerie and nuanced, the guitars, brooding and weary, the piano subtle and sparing.
Under the Heart has the quality of a soundtrack, telling a story and developing thematically throughout; ‘Flamingo’ is a brave continuation of ‘Departed’, with more classical elements in the vocals whilst retaining its simple, winding, mid-western feel.
Neither of the tracks suggests anything out of the ordinary, but the chaotic yet reminiscent and disconcerting electronica in ‘Machine Down’ that paves the way for an unexpected journey.
‘Midnight Candy’ lightens vocally without losing the eeriness, lifting the curtain slightly to reveal a faster and more enjoyable scene, all the while reminding us that things are not as they appear, and not to get too complacent.
As if to vindicate this perception, ‘Seventh Son’ trails its listeners through a frankly unusual and quasi-musical description of events; weird events.
The trans-continental drums and sustaining guitar make a distinctly psychedelic offering, an offering carried through the album from this point forwards.
‘Shake the Devil’ is one of the most persistently catchy tracks on the album and by this point, the record is in a state of nightmarish voodoo Americana; far from its origins but on the same road.
‘Tale’ takes things down a peg; a despairing hangover of the shaking of the devil the night before; lasting just over a minute, as hangovers should before ‘Touch Trail’ brings us into the third act; more playful with the elements established throughout.
This theme is carried on throughout ‘Under the Heart’, the albums’ penultimate track, which ends with some haunting but catchy instrumentals.
The sparing use of electronica throughout the album surrounds the physical instrumentals well, remaining sporadic enough never to rob the songs of their traditional and timeless feel.
That being said, no apologies are made for subversion or thematic disturbance from any musical department.
The overall production of the album is obviously important; if you listen carefully it seems as if you can hear some effects on the vocals at times, which is all well and good if it contributes to the ambience and atmosphere of the music; which it does here.
‘Violens’ ends the album with perhaps a higher energy than that of any other track; catchy, intense and memorable.
The record strides confidently through unpredictable and in some cases discordant and unsettling territory, bringing together something equal parts classic and contemporary.
Louise McVey & Cracks in the Concrete are at worst unique, at best revolutionary.
Words: Paul Aitken