Side-by-Side: Frank Hurricane, The Cradle, & Sweet Baby Jesus on HEC TWO

Posted by on June 27, 2017

hec

Massachusetts label HEC (“Collective audio diary. Purveyor of cassette.”) has grown up fast since launching late in 2016, with their lucky thirteenth release arriving May 18th from Brooklyn five-piece Sweet Baby Jesus’s Lyres of Ur. Sweet Baby round out a Brooklyn-centric trio of recent releases, also featuring two more familiar faces for Decoder: WV-born Frank Hurricane and multi-instrumentalist Paco Cathcart, aka The Cradle, both recurring fixtures on Feeding Tube Records and in the Brooklyn/northeast weirdo set. Though HEC organizes their batches loosely, this trio represents a whole spectrum of more and less subtly psychedelic NY troubadors, from Frank Hurricane’s psych-folk and Cathcart’s soaring miniatures to the southern swoon of Sweet Baby Jesus.

“Like a psychedelic hurricane of love, you can never really predict when Frank is going to blow into town, but when he gets there, you know.” Definitely not an unfair characterization. We met Frank at the 2016 Voice of the Valley in Fraziers Bottom, WV, an eency place in southern WV just about a half hour outside the state capital. As one of a very few other West Virginians at the festival, his voice filled the space with a surprising but familiar resonance, despite being a bit of a novelty in that year’s range of psychedelics.

Shrympanati State of Mynd

Opened by a jazzy key and string squiggle, the first track on Frank’s Shrympanati State of Mind cassette, “Deep in tha Woods,” is one of its more melodious ballads, with the sound of a car horn whirring by picturesquely in the first few moments — some of the most beautiful places in West Virginia are just a quick walk or a stumble down from some kind of roadway. Frank is a storyteller, a hierophant for natural spaces, in his outlook and his music, cutting a unique combination of old and new with his magical guitar-playing and surreal lyricism, rolling out vaguely bluesy rhapsodies and anecdotes about positivity, holistic living, or getting zonked.

The structure of Shrympanati State of Mind is particularly appealing though, only 22-minutes long but with its beautiful instrumental intro and outro book-ending twin standouts “Deep in tha Woods” and “Yr River Blues.” There’s also the boombox swagger of the tape’s eponymous single, and of course I can’t neglect to mention “Saddest $5 Footlong,” sure to become a soulful standard in Frank’s songbook. Check it all out though, and if you haven’t already, scope his sophomore LP for Feeding TubeMountain Brew Light.

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the cradle

The Cradle, aka Paco Cathcart, is prolific and much of that output is only more or less documented, though I think that with Little Missionaries his eccentric ragas and off-kilter meditations jump a particularly high bar. Broadly speaking, a bit of Feeding Tube Records’ description for his older Drink The Water cassette is probably a good catchall for his work: “can get a bit fevered in places, but that  has more to do with delirium than dance moves.” Bedroom pop that veers pleasantly close to Peter Walker territory, Cathcart mingles audio ephemera with his own oblique approaches to song-craft. The balance he achieves may be a bit odd or stick occasionally in its own repetition, but the resulting whole is usually spectacular. Arrangement is a critical and as I understand it variable continuum in The Cradle, but it’s that part of his framework in particular that seems to just get better and better at turning out happy accidents and novel experiments. Even a  smattering of guest appearances from Sammy Weissberg and Ani Iry-Block help subtly tweak expectations throughout.

 

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Sweet Baby Jesus

I’ll just open here by saying the cover art on Lyres of Ur is dead on, nicely completing my little “troubador” conceit — particularly if that costume came with a codpiece. No need to be a stickler though!

“From the depths of Ur fluttered a lilting melody, draped in the burden of a deep gut feeling, and weighted by a soul of stone. Around the mouth of the mildewed hollow, the villagers gathered and listened in wonder and terror and titillation. The Lyres emerged from the hall of darkness and dust. Bringing with them the fire of the abyss, and a song older than time.”

Lucky for them it was the Lyres emerging and not Sweet Baby Jesus, or my imagery might be tanked. Max Brown’s shouted, almost abrasive vocals sail over raw, but still irresistibly jangly Southern rock — delivered in this case by J.J. Fashad on drums, Charlie Dore-Young on bass, with the aforementioned Sammy Weissberg holding down double-duty on guitars alongside the even more aforementioned Paco Cathcart. For this trio of tapes, Lyres of Ur completes a spectacular tour of understated Brooklyn DIY, each collection given heft by its own idiosyncratic sense of poetry and song.

Order all three tapes and more via the HEC Tapes Bandcamp.