The first time I heard Louise McVey's rich, gothic voice, like crushed purple velvet and poisoned honey, I was spellbound. Dressed like some kind of burlesque Victorian governess with her prim hair and wide sleeves, and with Cracks in the Concrete's spine-tingling accompaniment providing the perfect backdrop, the 13th Note's stuffy basement felt almost enchanted. Not for nothing has the act been compared more than once to the perfect soundtrack for a David Lynch movie.
Named after a line in a Frank Black song, Cracks in the Concrete was originally the solo project of Graeme Miller and set up to cover collaborations with other writers and musicians. He teamed up with singer McVey, recently returned to her native Scotland, to play a short-notice set at the Dunstaffnage Festival last year but soon discovered a shared creative vision and love of dark tunes.
"We haven't been able to get rid of each other since," McVey jokes. Joined by Gordon Macpherson on drums, Jimmy O'Donnell on piano and Garry Freckleton on bass guitar, they now perform as part of a 5-piece band.
"We don't want to give the listener too much of an easy ride," McVey says of the collaboration. "At the same time though, we are interested in meeting them through expression – a sort of melodic and musical contradiction."
Sourced from the Under the Radar music blog
This involves everything from changing time signatures, unorthodox use of instruments, FM radio looping and a live show involving the band's "spirit guides". The result "suggests an underlying foreboding or unease," says McVey of the band's combination of melody, expressive dynamics and dark, unsettling lyrics.
As if to prove their offbeat nature, McVey and Miller list their influences as "creaky old horror movies, dusty old books, sleep deprivation, the wind…" and such artists and authors as Arvo Part, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Mervyn Peake, The Birthday Party, Haruki Murakami, Erik Satie, Serge Gainsbourg, Thomas Hardy, The Cramps and MC5. But they are also big fans of their hometown scene: "It's a very supportive and encouraging environment for bands to develop," says McVey.
Optimo Music release Louise McVey and Cracks in the Concrete's debut self-titled EP digitally in early December and on 10" in late January. Catch them live at Glasgow's Captain's Rest on 28 December.