City Of Refuge is listed at the fourth full-length from Castanets (aka one Ray Raposa and friends), but it could easily be listed as a padded EP. Although it contains fifteen tracks, just over half of them are sun-baked noodlings of electric guitar. Largely recorded in a little Nevada hotel room at the edge of nowhere (then added-to slightly later by some other players), this is an odd release that has some great ideas that get buried under far too much flotsam.
Sure, there's a dusty sort of desert soundtrack feel going on here, but when it all unspools, the results make for what is easily the most inconsistent effort from Raposa yet. After three tracks of instrumental wanderings, "Prettiest Chain" provides a bit of a break as his world-weary vocals crack through another dry guitar melody, but they come and go so quickly that it might as well be yet another instrumental track.
More successful are further developed pieces like "Refuge 1" and "Glory B." Both move with a palpable sense of building claustrophobia and unease, but neither one boils over, with the latter featuring some of the best vocal melodies (with the addition of some female harmonies) on the release. Saving some of the best songs for last, "Refuge 2" and "After The Fall" help the somewhat awkward album end on solid footing. Woozy and stark, City Of Refuge is one of those releases that never really shifts dynamics too much (there's no rhythm section on the entire album) and feels a bit longer than it actually is. I could see how this might play better on a cold winter day given the sparseness of it all, but it's nonetheless a bit of a frustrating listen.