(Copyright © 1999-2024 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Cathedral (2004), 7/10
First Light's Freeze (2005), 6/10
In The Vines (2007), 7/10
City of Refuge (2008), 5/10
Texas Rose, The Thaw & The Beasts (2009), 6/10

San Diego's Castanets, fronted by Raymond Raposa, debuted with a short album, Cathedral (Asthmatic Kitty, 2004), that offered a gloomy fusion of alt-country, slo-core and digital production. They often sound like a cross between Cowboy Junkies and Morphine but sprinkling sound effects on their ballads like an insane Rufus Wainwright. Churning out post-blues dirges at a snail's pace, they deposit Cathedrail 2, The Smallest Bones and We Are The Wreckage deep into the listener's consciousness. The range, far from monotonous, extends from the macabre fanfare of You Are the Blood to the whispered Leonard Cohen-ian lullabye No Light To Be Found, via more conventional country ballads such as As You Do. And the album further disorients the listener by indulging in eccentric constructs like Industry and Snow.

Raymond Raposa also plays on Liz Janes' Poison And Snakes (Asthmatic, 2005).

The Castanets' second album, First Light's Freeze (Asthmatic Kitty, 2005), continued the first album's introverted exploration of moods, from the hyper-minimal Good Friend Yr Hunger to the rocking A Song Is Not The Song Of The World. In between are the songs that represent the core of Raposa's art, Dancing With Someone and Bells Aloud.

In The Vines (Asthmatic Kitty, 2007) reestablished Raposa as the visionary existentialist he had been on the debut album. The material was generally more poignant, but more importantly he had refined the dynamic side of the equation, accompanying the storytelling with matching sound development, notably in Rain Will Come, that toys first with acoustic melodic calm and then with apocalyptic noise, and in the feeble six-minute Three Months Paid, drenched in a disorienting electronic soundscape and swampy beats. Raposa is, first and foremost, a master of dark atmospheres, whether in the dreamy psalm driven by ominous tom-toms Strong Animal or in the plantation elegy This Is the Early Game. Close seconds are the slow-motion, mildly psychedelic chants, notably Sounded Like a Train Wasn't a Train, which are powerful psychological tests. More dubious is the effectiveness of the semi-poppy Sway, The Night Is When You Can Not See and And the Swimming. The nasal Bob Dylan-inspired Westbound Blue is cute although it sounds like coming out of a different album.

City of Refuge (2008) was disappointing in terms of content and atmosphere, despite a few moments of pathos (The Destroyer, Prettiest Chain, After the Fall). His soul seemed to resonate more profoundly with the guitar instrumentals, Celestial Shore and the psychedelic The Quiet.

Texas Rose, The Thaw & The Beasts (2009), that features Rocket from the Crypt's Jason Crane and Black Heart Procession's Pall Jenkins, is a vastly more eclectic work, even venturing into synth-pop with Worn from the Fight and disco-pop with Lucky Old Moon, running the gamut from the hard-rocking No Trouble to the torch ballad Down the Line Love. The spartan folk of My Heart and On Beginning connects with the introverted Castanets of yore, and perhaps it's the gloomy alt-country of Rose and Dance Dance that truly steals the show.
Tracks: 01 Rose 02 On Beginning 03 My Heart 04 Worn From The Fight (With Fireworks) 05 No Trouble 06 Thaw And The Beasts 07 We Kept Our Kitchen Clean And Our Dreaming Quiet 08 Down The Line, Love 09 Lucky Old Moon 10 Ignorance is Blues 11 Dance, Dance

Raposa died in 2022.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Tobia D’Onofrio)

I Castanets, gruppo di San Diego guidato dal frontman Raymond Raposa, hanno esordito con un album breve, Cathedral (Asthmatic Kitty, 2004), che offre una tenebrosa fusione di alt-country, slo-core e produzione digitale. Spesso sembrano un incrocio tra Morphine e Idaho, con Rufus Wainwright che vela con effetti sonori le loro ballate. Producendo canti funebri post-blues a passo di lumaca, riescono a depositare nei meandri della coscienza dell’ascoltatore pezzi come No Light To Be Found, Three Days Four Nights, As You Do, We Are The Wreckage, You are the Blood.

Raymond Raposa suona anche nell’album di Liz Janes Poison And Snakes (Asthmatic Kitty, 2005).

Il secondo album dei Castanets, First Light’s Freeze (Asthmatic Kitty, 2005), continua nell’introversa esplorazione di stati d’animo che era cominciata nel primo disco, ma utilizza una più ampia tavolozza di stili, variando dalla iper-mimimale Good Friend Yr Hunger, alla potentissima A Song Is Not The Song Of The World. A metà strada ci sono i pezzi che rappresentano il cuore dell’arte di Raposa, Dancing With Someone e Bells Aloud.

In The Vines (Asthmatic Kitty, 2007) ha riconsacrato Raposa come l’esistenzialista visionario che si era rivelato nell’album d’esordio. Il materiale è generalmente un po’ più intenso, ma la cosa più importante è come egli abbia rifinito la parte dinamica dell’equazione, accompagnando il cantautorato con appropriati sviluppi sonori, riuscendo particolarmente in Rain Will Come, che si diverte prima con calma acustica e poi con rumore apocalittico, e nei sei minuti di Three Months Paid, pervasi da una disorientante atmosfera elettronica.

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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