Castanets first album Cathedral was a surprise release that came out of nowhere with its unique style and knocked me back a bit. Raymond Raposa created an album that mixed folk and country with drone and free jazz in a way that seemed natural and it crept into my head and onto my year-end list. With First Light's Freeze, he retains many of those pieces, and also draws a touch of electronics into the mix. The overall result isn't quite as solid as his previous album, but nonetheless contains some of his best work to date.
Once again, there are shorter pieces of ambient drones that fill in the gaps between the longer pieces, and the album opens with one in "(The Waves Are Rolling Beneath Your Skin)" before the album starts in full with the desolate-sounding "Into The Night." The track mixes sparse, acoustic instrumentation with the buzz of streetlamps and haunting vocals (that touch on politics of war) into a track that sort of drifts like a dense fog. "A Song Is Not the Song of the World" drops a slightly fuzzy electronic beat behind strummed guitar and building vocals before the track skronks out about halfway through with some bursts of noisy guitar, synth bubbles, and organ.
From there, the album is even more mixed. "Good Friend, Yr Hunger" is a weird electronic stomp with banjo, droning e-bow guitar, and melancholy vocals from Raposa while "Bells Aloud" drops off into billowing alt country, a subdued track drenched in reverb and haunted with regretful vocals. Arriving in short bursts are hazy, short bursts of droning guitars that act more as chapter dividers than bridges between tracks. In places, the new instrumentation sounds a bit well-worn, such as the drum machine beats and guitar beginning of "No Voice Was Raised." Just about the time you think the track is going to be another electro-indie snoozer, though, Raposa drops a twist and the track turns into a full-on freakout complete with dense layers of howling guitars, pounding drums, and horns.
The best track on the entire release might be the more subdued "All That I Know To Have Changed in You," which seems to be the best blending of styles on the entire release as subtle electronics glint and flutter around a slow and heady track that pulses with reverb. Despite the great tracks, First Light's Freeze feels a bit more inconsistent than the great debut from the group. At just over a half-hour in running length, the sequencing (with the short tracks that don't really do much to hold it together) seems a bit strange, and the hodge-podge of genres is interesting but at times a bit distracting.