June 16th, 2014 , by John Beeler
Castanets singer-songwriter Ray Raposa hasn’t been gone long. It was just two years ago that Raposa’s new band, Raymond Byron and the White Freighter, came out with their shaggy, rocking debut LP. But as he returns to the helm of his solo project for the first Castanets recording since 2009, Decimation Blues, it sounds like a silence being broken.
And Decimation Blues, out this summer on Asthmatic Kitty Records, communicates as much through silence, through what goes musically or lyrically unsaid, as it does through words and music. The arrangements are sparse, and the performances, especially the rich patina of Raposa’s own singing voice, are laid nearly bare.
But it’s the sorrow in the grain of that voice that makes the warmth of his melodies that much more consoling—in the same way that the joy his songs find in moments of basic human connection so often seems to imply the end of a deep, unspoken loneliness.
Decimation Blues arrives to refresh parched ears on August 19th, as a CD, vinyl LP or digital download. A limited edition of the LP will be pressed on marbled blue vinyl. Preorder it here and receive an immediate download of the first single, “Out For The West.”
July 16th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Out now on Asthmatic Kitty Records, Chris Schlarb’s Psychic Temple II is an auteurist outing with an all-star cast.
Led by composer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Schlarb, the Psychic Temple project brings together an enormous range of artists from the musical underground: singer-songwriters Ray Raposa of Castanets, Nedelle Torrisi of Cryptacize, Aaron Roche and Sufjan Stevens; Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey Owens; Death guitarist Paul Masvidal; Xiu Xiu and Nels Cline bassist Devin Hoff; drummers Tabor Allen and Andrew Pompey; trumpeter Kris Tiner; and many more.
“Each one of them is a leader of their own project,” Schlarb says of his Psychic Temple lineup. It’s “an honor,” he says, “for me to be in charge for a little while.”
Psychic Temple II was recently chosen as a First Listen by NPR.org, who said that Schlarb’s “restless creativity has no choice but to continuously seek new worlds” and praised his “unfailing determination to make things happen.” Schlarb himself describes the Psychic Temple project’s sophomore out as “the most ambitious large scale work for an ensemble that I’ve ever put together,” but the effect of the music is more important to him than its complexity.
“If somebody wants to jump into it on a songwriting level or a structural level, they can listen to it and say, ‘Wow, that’s really neat, these chords are really interesting,’ or, ‘These time signatures are jumping around,’” says Schlarb, “but I’d also like to reach them on a sentimental level. It doesn’t just exist to be difficult.”
Instead, Schlarb says, “I really challenged myself with this record, to write stuff that was a little more intricate and complex and detailed, but still allowed to live and breathe.” The result merges the sophistication of jazz or chamber music with an unpretentious indie-rock atmosphere.
Psychic Temple II is available in CD, LP, and digital download packages starting July 16.
June 28th, 2012 , by John Beeler
Going on five full-length records since 2004, Asthmatic Kitty’s Castanets has given us a wide-lens look at deconstructed Americana. Come September 4th, Castanets’ Ray Raposa will debut a new band, Raymond Byron and the White Freighter, and a brand-new full-length, Little Death Shaker.
Where the ‘Nets trafficked in improv and avant-country gone coal black, Raposa’s new stuff is pure roadhouse blues. Stripped of all noise influences and focusing on straight-up songs, Little Death Shaker is a record evocative of late nights and dusty parking lots, long drives and boozy hookups. This is the work of a dude who’s spent his youth and young manhood on tour and it comes through in both the music and the lyrics.
One of Little Death Shaker’s real charms is you can close your eyes and see these 13 tracks played live; you can see the drummer leaning over his kit with his brushes, the backup singers standing around the mic, beers in hand, eyes closed, swaying side to side, the lights crisscrossing the stage. In a world of records that bands can’t duplicate live, it’s crazy-refreshing.
Meet Raymond Byron and the White Freighters and their record Little Death Shaker. Here’s to the new.
October 17th, 2009 , by John Beeler
Long time friend of Asthmatic Kitty and lovely troubadour, Dylan Metrano, has released a book entitled All My Friends Are Right Here With Me: A Decade in the Indie Rock Underground. Dylan Metrano founded Tiger Saw in 1999, and has since played over 700 shows in twelve countries. He currently lives in Maine, continues to play in Tiger Saw, as well as the band Tiny Fires. The book is the story of the first decade of the indie-folk collective Tiger Saw. Based on tour diaries and dozens of interviews, it tells of a community of bands in this DIY, post-Nirvana era. It features first-person accounts of tours with Kimya Dawson, Jason Anderson, Viking Moses, and our own Liz Janes and Castanets. Part travelogue, part studio diary, and part oral history; All My Friends tells of an exciting time of collaboration, mutual inspiration, and perseverance in the ever-changing world of indie rock. It features detailed remembrances by members of Dirty Projectors, White Hinterland, Little Wings, Songs: Ohia, Tarentel, and many others. Each chapter also includes concert fliers, tour photos, as well as comics and illustrations by Pat Corrigan, Tom Eaton (illustrating a Liz Janes / Tiger Saw tour), and Alan Bull. The book also comes with an exclusive 13-track CD of Tiger Saw covers performed by some of their friend including Jason Anderson, White Hinterland, Picastro and more. Purchase the book here from Burst & Bloom.
September 25th, 2009 , by John Beeler
Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts, is the best we’ve ever heard from Castanets. It may very well be some of the best music we’ve ever heard in a while, no kidding. You can read author Adam Gnade’s thoughts on the album here, but you’re probably better off listening to the album while you do. Conveniently, we are streaming the album, in full, in free, on AKradio. Launch it here.
September 13th, 2009 , by John Beeler
A film by: Jeff Stern
Director of Photography: Mike Szegedi
Featuring: Wayne Feldman & Melissa Wojciechowski
Preorder Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts here.
September 4th, 2009 , by John Beeler
We are very close to letting Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts, the latest work from Castanets, out of the door. Shortly after we do, Castanets will embark on a tour of Europe that weaves through Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and end in the UK. You can see those dates here.
For us unlucky enough to not be in Europe, everyone endowed with an internet connection can hear Castanets cover Hank Williams in multiple places. On Stereogum, Castanets cover "Rambling Man." Hank’s yodel scared frontman Ray Raposa as a kid, and Ray is just paying it forward. You can hear it here. And then on My Old Kentucky Blog, Castanets cover "Weary Blues from Waiting" with kind of fancy guitar footwork. That one is here.
July 31st, 2009 , by John Beeler
Via our twitter account: #WTDTW :: Fri: Castanets @ Hemlock-San Fran :: Sat: Castanets @ The Crepe Place – Santa Cruz.
June 30th, 2009 , by John Beeler
Speaking of whirlwind tours, Cryptacize is headway into theirs. They’re playing in Atlanta tonight, then Chapel Hill, and back up into the Rustbelt and beyond, with the superbly sublime Casiotone for the Painfully Alone as tourmates. See dates for that tour here.
June 15th, 2009 , by John Beeler
Castanets’ contribution to the American music canon has always been a strange, experimental, defiant one. Beer-soaked country rock gone contrarian noise. Corpse-y folk and desert blues. Live shows and past records brought free-jazz and Nashville together or went dub like it was casual. But no matter how out there it’s gone, Castanets’ music has always had this sly, wizened eye for catchiness and a quiet, laidback flirtation with beats. In the five years since Castanets main-man Raymond Raposa dropped his debut, Cathedral, it has always seemed like Raposa was just one step away from writing a whopper of a totally accessible pop record.
And here it is, Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts. Only it’s not. By some dark alchemy, Castanets has managed to craft an album that is as catchy and well-defined as it is full of experimentation. And more so. More so on the catchy. More so on the song-craft. More so on the clean, majestic classy production (courtesy of our own Rafter Roberts). But also more so on the noise, the haunted electronics, and the all-out remodeling of American song forms.
It’s something new and it’s something epic – and it satisfies. There are many things we can ask for from our music but to be satisfied is paramount. Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts, the brand-new record from Castanets, is out September 22nd. You can read more about the album here.
In between now and then, Castanets are touring, extensively through June. Those tourdates are here.