Everybody’s got stories and histories and back-stories but when the lights go out and the shit goes down, what good’ll they do you? What we need is courage, sanctity, and some love (carnal, secret, even troubled.) We need Son House or Charley Patton, nothin’ but clapping hands, and a hoarse voice telling us about Gawwwd, the Devil, that WOMAN. We need blues and we need beats smashing outta the back end of a Cadillac in some back-end-town. And we get all of that with Castanets. Let’s roll the time-line…
Come 2004 there was Castanets’ Asthmatic Kitty debut, Cathedral, with country guitars and electronics that shook the bar-tops of San Diego, deepest-darkest Brooklyn, and parts unknown. The order of the day was noise on noise and free-jazz haze-outs. First Light’s Freeze was a dream of ice and piles of river rock. It was American music from the old tradition but witnessed in 2005, solidly, with no eye for nostalgia or romanticism.
2007 was In The Vines, and suddenly we were there in the backseat in the summer while the wind blew through the car and drowned out everything but your own damn thoughts. (“Put your body, ‘cross my body and sway, sway, sway” went the radio when we pulled over to take a piss.) It was lusts and heat and a rising rrrahhhwww of lap steel.
City of Refuge came in 2008, a minimalist desert opera of stillness, barren parking lots, and hot air. It was 15 tracks of warm beer, sunbaked trailers, and—somewhere, far off in that empty bar you wish you lived in—the jukebox playing the most golden of high-plains country.
Then there’s Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts, an oscillating, dissolving reverie of country and folk that goes from clattering and dark to big and triumphant then right back to noise again. This, Castanets’ fifth for Asthmatic Kitty, is bossman Ray Raposa dropping a pop record on us and, at the same time, keeping it proper with one foot in a shimmering puddle of strangeness and experimentation.
This is Castanets, MVP.