What does it mean when a three-piece band has a spin-off two-piece? While the premonition is that drama is afoot for member number three, that’s probably overthinking it. At least in the case of Shadow in the Cracks, a side project of The Blind Shake where brothers Blaha split off from their main gig for a more ambient approach at noise rock.
With Mike Blaha on vocals and baritone guitar, Jim Blaha on guitar, and the two splitting mild percussive flourishes, the side project 9-song debut is both familiar and new. The voices and tones expressed over a half-hour aren’t unfamiliar to Blind Shake fans, but it’s drawn out and sparse. Contemplative and taking its time instead of their other project’s highly motivated punctuality. The Blind Shake is the striving sibling, Shadow in the Cracks the quiet and thoughtful one in the corner.
“Timeless” kicks it off. It’s probably the highest energy song on the record—and the shortest and most similar to Blind Shake. However, it’s less fun and more ominous, indicative of the turn of direction that isn’t exactly dark, but it’s more distant, removed, and self-contained. Across the record, it’s more subdued than the opener. Songs stretch into the 3-6 minute range with a quiet and repetitive format, atmospheric and less attention grabbing. Shades of pop in The Blind Shake are replaced with a more atonal focus here, and that’s sort of the idea behind the band. There’s a lot of detuned distortion, as in eponymous track “Shadow in the Cracks,” which is really the standout in breaking that wall away from their other band and taking things in a new direction. While the opening half takes its time in breaking off in that new direction, the latter half of the record is where Shadows in the Cracks, as the kids (who are now middle-aged) once said, is where it’s at.
First impressions of Shadow in the Cracks were removed—it feels atmospheric and more “background,” but the record is a grower, connecting in tonal frequency and a unified and sometimes almost barbaric percussive touch that really makes it click, as when the title track peaks at the 2:20 mark with stunted rage, trying to break from the proverbial tonal box but cannot. Shadow in the Cracks is a tunneling mania on the precipice of breaking free.
And speaking of being trapped, let’s go for one final mixed metaphor.
Too ambient for the psych-garage scene and too melodic for noise rock, Shadow in the Cracks is treading some turbulent waters on their debut. While the water may look unwelcoming, after a few minutes in, it feels just right.
7.3 / 10
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