by Jackson Abatemarco
Amongst the most important things to come out of Brooklyn and the related scenes in the Hudson Valley of the last six years is the Bard-cultivated avant-garde punk scene heralded by bands like Big Neck Police, Palm and Palberta, taking the ethos and of DIY punk and blending it with the chaotic, hair brained and jagged means of art rock expression. Within this scene stands out The Cradle; the experimental solo side project of Brooklyn DIY staple Paco Cathcart (known prominently for his work in previously mentioned Big Neck Police). The Cradle’s January full length Temperate Lands marks roughly three years since Cathcart’s first release under the moniker, and since then he has developed his intricate style of avant-garde songwriting and recording to a point of sophisticated composition. With Temperate Lands, Cathcart takes these experimental motifs developed over the course of the Cradle’s discography, and marries them with an irresistibly fascinating brand of neo-folk pop.
Temperate Lands opens with a resonant and haunting instrumental track entitled “The Starver’s Promise”, driven by each pristine and ghostly note, and carried by a jangly backbeat reminiscent of some maudlin carnival folk employing the use of what sounds like more traditional instruments. "Reference to the Season" introduces Cathcart’s vocal treatments, an impressive range varying from deadpan borderline whispered croons on that track to the beautiful vocal arrangements and harmonies on the following track “In Your Hands”. Tracks like “Beholder’s Turn and “Watering” bring the listener to grandiose moments of experimental psych pop that creates a fusion between dreamlike melody and pulsating driving rhythm. Cathcart easily and freely flows from backbeat supported acoustic minimalism to warmer all encompassing dream-pop in a natural and cohesive manner, clearly expanding on techniques used in previous avant garde releases while simultaneously showing his growth as a songwriter in the conventional sense.
“Wine Dub” acts as an exploration of transcendental melody and driving beat and it’s synth work is reminiscent in many ways of the more alternative beat artists or DJ’s, such as DiBia$e or Knxwledge, while still retaining the jangly neo-folk undertones found on the rest of the record. The folkier moments of each song are counterbalanced by a strong Asian influence, with much of the busier moments of the album feeling vaguely reminiscent of traditional Middle Eastern or South Pacific instrumentation.
An impressive facet of Temperate Lands is how the record seems to flow seamlessly from moments of monotone, stripped down minimalism, to large textured compositions, creating a strong juxtaposition between the barren folk of say the beginning of “Beholder’s Turn,” a sparse acoustic guitar riff, and the triumphant middle; in which the listener is submerged in layer after layer of sonic composition. One gets the sense that they are experiencing an internal movement throughout the album, and even Cathcart’s discography as a whole. Certain references to past albums on Temperate Lands are consistent with this, for example the tracks “Place Four, 1804” and “Place Five” seem to reference tracks "Place One," "Place Two," and "Place Three" on earlier releases.
All in all Temperate Lands makes for a complex divulsion of layered intricacies that take several listens to even come close to understanding. The output of quality experimental songwriting from Cathcart is impressive to say the least and is definitely worth keeping an eye on for future releases.