Castanets - In The Vines
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In The Vines

It seems that with every release now, the work of Ray Raposa (the main man behind Castanets) has gotten a bit more fractured. His debut Cathedral was inspired by riding a Greyhound bus around the country and meeting interesting characters, while the follow-up First Light's Freeze changed up his sounds even more while adding some electronic elements. As if he needed any more fuel for the fire, Raposa was robbed at gunpoint while recording this third album and had several lapses of crippling depression, giving the release an even more nomadic and shattered quality than his past work.

He's largely backed away from the more overt electronic elements on In The Vines, but a general uneasiness still pervades the entire release. His cracked, weary vocals tint every song with a sort of burnt-out feel that ties together the music of the release, which is rooted in country, but touches on everything from free jazz to abstract folk. "Rain Will Come" opens the release with a heavily-reverbed feel, sounding like a campfire song with Raposa on acoustic guitar and vocals until a storm of feedback and scraggly noise overtakes the track halfway through and shreds for the remainder.

Considering the blowout at the end of the first track, it might seem like the album is being willfully difficult, but it settles into a more standard feel on the next couple songs, culminating in the lush "Strong Animal," one of several percussion-heavy songs on the album that unfurl with rich production and more subdued vocals that work better than just about anything else. Offsetting these pieces are songs like "Sounded Like A Train, Wasn't A Train," which revel in hissy production and sparse melodies that don't have near the revelatory power.

With ten songs running under forty minutes, the haphazard track order (with production quality going from super lo-fi to pristine) and dour feel ultimately make for a rather challenging listen. If you've enjoyed past work from Castanets, you'll probably want to check this one out, but in my opinion it's his most inconsistent work to date.

rating: 6.510
Aaron Coleman 2007-10-25 21:09:19