The most astonishing thing about HeTCA is the fact that frontman Kurt Wagner is known to work with his hands. He is a shirt-sleeved, baseball cap wearing former floor tiler: A prototypical man of the middle classes. On stage with his longstanding alternative country and indie band Lambchop, he promotes this not only via his clothes, but also by his unassuming and unpretentious demeanor. As if saying: I am making honest music for honest people. That, of course, is only halfway true, as he has long been one of the darlings of the more cultivated music critics, and you could not really imagine him having too many fans in common with, say: Springsteen or Dave Matthews. Wagner and Lambchop have always been a bit too odd or too complicated for the really, really honest man.
This week, Wagner will throw another curve ball our way via Merge Records, in the form of his new electronic project HeCTA. Some parts of debut album “The Diet” are so very much different from the slow, orchestral and quiet sound of Lambchop that long standing fans will be taken aback for a second or two. A hard beat and a shouting voice dominate the opener “Till Someone Gets Hurt”, and it takes a while for the song – and the listeners ear – to settle into it. But the song, and the album as a whole, soon reveal that Wagners strength lies in creating intriguing melodies and deliciously subtle chord changes – and that it doesn’t matter which genre he chooses to wrap them up in.
The beats on “The Diet” sound a bit hollow at times, and you can’t shake the impression that they tried to do the best with their dilettante knowledge at best. But looking back at the beginnings of Lambchop, that amateur attitude was part of the charm. And there is enough finesse to build upon here, so who knows to which heights of proficiency HeCTA will propel themselves in the years to come, should this turn out to be more than a one-time thing. They have done it before, and they can do it again. After all, Kurt Wagner is a hard working self-made man, if anything.
Listen to the pre-release stream below.