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CD Review: Castanets "First Light's Freeze"

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And what good these myriad mythologies?
And what good these magics (sic) not to be released?
And what good unknowable divinity... if it's not the world?
--Castanets, A Song Is Not The Song Of The World

The enigmatic and brooding San Diego native, Ray Raposa, ponders these and other existential questions with his band Castanets on their second release "First Light's Freeze." Though Raposa's lyrics shift from prosaic to poetic, they never drift far from the moody, musical core that pulls at the listener's heart, mind and [occasionally] patience.

The arrangements on "First Light's Freeze" are refreshingly sparse, yet, simultaneously experimental and complicated. Five short musical interludes act as sinews between eight lengthier songs. Major musical influences include The Velvet Underground and No Neck Blues Band.

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Sometimes Raposa sounds a bit like the Australian pop-folk singer Ben Lee, only infinitely moodier. At other times, like the title track, his voice is rich, low and full of pathos. Regardless of the state of his voice or phrasing, the CD is about taking a journey. He takes listeners for an unexpected musical trip on No Voice Was Raised. It starts slow and erupts into a chaotic buzz of guitars that resemble a hornet nest exploding. The result? The noise on this track akin to Björk's Pluto--a song which rocked the Hollywood Bowl a few years ago, but remains almost unlistenable on her "Homogenic" CD. This is not indicative of the rest of the CD, which is even and listenable.


Our Advice:
This music is unapologetically sullen and personal. Collaborations with Los Angeles free-jazz collective Create(!) and the nomadic members of Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice result in a sophomore CD that pushes the envelope and begs for a second listen. You will need patience and an appreciation for experimental music to truly enjoy this CD. If you're the type of listener that digs independent music, this will be up your alley.

Our favorite tracks are: A Song Is Not The Song Of The World, the pared-down Dancing with Someone and the dreamy All That I know to Have Changed in You.

Further Listening: Official website | iTunes

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Although Castanets relocated from San Diego to NYC, they'll be returning to California this month for a few live dates:

11/25/05 San Francisco @ Hotel Utah
11/26/05 Los Angeles @ The Hotel Café
11/27/05 San Diego (venue TBA)