Castanets
Cathedral
/asthmatic kitty; 2004/






more info:
www.asthmatickitty.com

This is a dark folk music record. And it's my favourite record of the year so far. It was recorded in "a secluded cabin in the northern California woodlands" according to the Asthmatic Kitty website, and i guess it sounds like the kind of music people could make in a secluded cabin in the northern California woodlands. It's bare and haunting, with a lonesome saxophone and an evil organ slowly coming towards you (and no, escape is not a possibility).

They're coming from san diego, a city which, if you consider the bands coming from there (black heart procession, tristeza, pinback), is probably not really a happy place to live in. the singer is named Raymond Raposa, which is an appropriate name. He's got a low voice reminiscent of BHP in a more desperate, less emotional way. Sometimes a girl named Bridgit DeCook sings/whispers along. Instrumentation/arrangements are what make this record special, glockenspiel coming out of nowhere, feedback, dusty harmonica, americana at its very best. It sounds bare but lively, lo-fi in a "recorded in the open sky" way.

Wide landscapes. "You are the Blood" is one of my favourites, ending up in a crazy explosion of bells and percussions. The saxophone, drenched in reverb, makes the hole song sound dirty and filthy, covered in dry mud and Mexican dust. "No Light to Be Found (Fare Thee Faith, The Path is yours)" is another favourite. Raposa sings "I had a dream so dark that i couldn't tell/ but i know that's just as well." Brilliantly dark, with people making little sounds somewhere behind the van. It's halfway between The Black Heart Procession's second record and Nick Cave's darkest pieces (without the bombast). Every word weighs a ton and i find myself holding my breath until my face goes grey.

Other songs, such as "Three Days, Four Nights" are reminiscent of Giant Sand and Calexico when the forementioned lonely people from Arizona feel like being gloomy. "As You Do" is a lovely love song. It's not really happy, mind you, but it allows me to breathe for 2 minutes. It's as lovely as "I bid you to love me as you do / i wish you to love me as you did / i can't ask you to take me and be true / but i can ask to love me as you do" Bridgit DeCook sings along and it makes a lovely contrast. Lovely.

"The Smallest Bones" is a dark song sung for, well, God. "My lord it's an eternity / waiting for thee / there's a cancer / in the smallest bones / in the smallest breeze." no matter what your beliefs are, questioning them is always a good idea. The song is compelling. "We Are the Wreckage", apart from having the best song title of the year, is a soft rusty ballad sung with the very same Bridgit DeCook, evolving around a lonely guitar and a painfully simple line: "i'll be just where you are". there is a piano hiding in the basement, a lap steel behind the smoke machine and a saxophone coming out of nowhere. The end of the song is a majestous two minutes long GYBE piece.

The record ends with "Cathedral 4 (The Unbreaking Branch and Song)" with just a guitar and Raposa's voice and then there's a drum machine and then there's a saxophone and it starts being groovy like a sad song to dance to then it's 2 minutes 22 into the song and it stops and you want more.

I'm begging for more.

Please?

-Barbara H

/oct 15th 2004/