The Cradle: Bag of Holding (NNA Tapes)

Lyrically rich new LP from NYC outfit, the project of singer Paco Cathcart

Released Jul 22nd, 2018 via NNA Tapes / By Emilie Kneifel
The Cradle: Bag of Holding (NNA Tapes) Rabbits in a wintry forest, skittish. Finding warmth somewhere. Vulnerable, but victorious — there is glory, maybe, in simply surviving. The Cradle’s Bag of Holding flutters with this anxious sublime. The delicate beauty of being natural prey, if only to one’s own mind.

The album’s orchestral arrangements sprout with nature’s harmony-entropy duality: violins warble like a bird’s first flight (an anxious drop, a surefire ascent). Clarinets surge, flutes spring, cellos burgeon. Sometimes utter chaos clashes. An off-kilter balance, which sways. Which canopies Paco Cathcart’s guitar, which plunks loyally along like wandering footsteps.

There’s a city grit to Cathcart’s lyrics — timestamps, gruesome news, weather apps, 7/11’s — that one wouldn’t expect from their coniferous sonic surroundings. And he does seem to strain against this earthly attachment; being 'wedded to the grid' is but one insult he has for a love interest’s boyfriend. But Cathcart’s recounting mutates his mundane details into something like folklore. He’s so close to the mic, to the listener’s ear, brushing against. Divulging. Relaying somehow significant history. Some stories are long-winded in their linear lagging, the melody stretching to fit. But he is telling them for a reason. One that transcends.

Cathcart uses his quotidian as proof of impure perception. Piles up his blocky banality to climb and knock at the ceiling of his own skull. At how we forget — 'trying to hold onto that image’s wrist' — but yearn to keep it all. In Rememberer’s Heaven, he gets to see 'the list of everything.' Everything. Still on earth though, he chases the elusive rift between memory and fabrication, even simulating the feeling for the listener with his jarringly familiar metal clatters (are they keys?) and the two white churches he finds on The Opposite Way Pt. 3 and St. Pete’s Station. Déjà vu re-enacted.

A single line epitomizes the reason, I think, for Cathcart’s grappling: the adamant and acute ache that fickle memory begets. On A Thought That Deletes, he ducks outside to grab a coffee past midnight. A specific chill stings his skin. He looks out. He sees someone significant there, across the street. And your walk is so sweet/That it goes in reverse.' The unreality of the very spotting exposes it. Just a memory. Just the cold conjuring some other night, some other time. Something wholly untouchable. But which still remains.

A bag of holding (like Mary Poppins’ or Hermione Granger’s) carries capacities larger than itself: 'daggers,' 'treasure maps,' 'spoils of assorted pasts.' It’s where 'karmic pain' festers and 'where my pleasure lives.' Paco Cathcart’s Bag of Holding contains everything it possibly could: his mind entire. But still he reaches, scratching its limits, wanting for more. 7/10