Paco Cathcart’s music finds space in the cracks between documenting the everyday and exploring the otherwordly. Working under the moniker the Cradle, the Brooklyn-based musician has put out over 30 solo Bandcamp releases, all the while playing in various NYC bands such as Big Neck Police, Shimmer, and Climax Landers.
The new Cradle record Bag Of Holding drifts from guitar-and-voice based songwriting to expressive orchestral-pop territory, melding the expanse of symphonic instrumentation with the physical intimacy of close-mic’d acoustic guitar playing. It feels vast and tiny at the same time. Compared to previous experimental releases, Bag Of Holding seems to strip away layers of freneticism to reveal a refined but still beautifully emotive approach to songwriting. Here, Cathcart flexes his background in engineering and recording, with masterfully crafted production and seamlessly integrated vocal contributions by Palberta’s Lily Konigsberg, Nina Ryser, and Ani Ivry-Block plus orchestral arrangements written by Sammy Weissberg.
Lead single “Sweet Dreams” opens airy and bright, with each note awash in pale, watercolory tones. But there’s something celestial looming over. The symphonic parts bud into windswept melodies, intertwining over and under Cathcart’s spindly guitar strumming and soft, lilting vocals from Palberta’s Konigsberg (also of Lily And Horn Horse). Despite the serene, dreamlike quality of Weissberg’s arrangements on this track, Cathcart’s lyrics are firmly grounded in the present day’s harshest, most sublunary realities. Over swirling clarinets and warm string sections, Cathcart murmurs, “Forty dead in Istanbul/ At a disco on New Year’s Eve/ It’s midnight at Timber Creek/ Turn the channel back to NYC.” Cathcart employs this juxtaposition — pitting acerbic lyrics against peaceful sonic backdrops –often, and he does it well. Weaving together social critique, street-level observations, and vignettes of ostensibly mundane happenings, Cathcart presents the chaotic world through his own eyes without ever coming across too heavy-handed or myopic.
“Sweet Dreams” is the prettiest misanthropic lullaby I’ve ever heard. Listen below.