Album Illegal Leak of the Week: Castanets, In The Vines
posted by October 3 at 13:36 PMon
Raymond Raposa has always teetered on the edge of the freak folk movement, and for a genre meant for music’s outsiders, that’s saying something. So what is it that has kept Raposa’s ever-changing musical concern, Castanets, from securing the growing cult fanbases of similar acousti-weird acts like Devendra Banhart and Peter & The Wolf? He’s not lacking in anything weird or musically compelling; if anything, Raposa takes a haunting, colder turn compared to the warmer, livelier sounds of the genre’s hippies and miscreants. Admittedly, that’s my preferred take on modern folk music, and his first record, Cathedral, delivered that with a shack-parlor vibe that went in all directions, from country-tinged folk to echo-heavy dub.
The cold mood remains on Castanets’ latest album, In The Vines, but it returns in a much more refined and focused form. Gone are percussion-crazy old songs like “You Are The Blood,” which sounded like Raposa handed spoons to a room full of stoners and asked them to beat them against the wall. Instead, the sense of musical isolation is only stronger on spare meanderings like “Sway,” whose acoustic repetition and lack of full band puts more focus on Raposa’s battles with temptation: “Lightning in the leap / There’s lightning in the leap / The sin of something dangerous, something sweet.”
At times, the album seems like Raposa’s attempt at honoring Dylan, what with his increasingly nasal vocals and more blues-appreciative songwriting. To bust up that theory, Raposa hides the six-minute “Three Months Paid” toward the end of the runtime. Though it might seem like a Mazzy Star-ish snoozer at first, the lingering pedal steel tones, white noise and Raposa’s hushed treatise about unattainable love—“So we’ll sail north, south, east and west / Just there over the sail and over the nails”—eventually reveal themselves as an unforgettable tribute to the latter day works of Kevin Shields. It’s certainly Raposa’s warmest song to date—not lively, certainly, but the hopeless romanticism is an interesting change of pace, proving that this great American songwriter probably has many more surprises to come in his still-young career.