If Syd Barrett had been part of The Basement Tapes, it might have sounded like this. Oddly disjointed rhythms that nevertheless sound ancient and traditional haunt the latest offering from Castanets.
City of Refuge was inspired by chance tour stop in Overton Nevada. Ray Raposa (he would be joined later on for help with overdubs by the likes of Scott Tuma and Sufjan Stevens) holed up for three weeks in a tiny desert motel and had at the sounds in his head and of those floating in from the lonely plains. The result is a stunning, quiet work that resonates with longing and chaos.
Even the most remote desolate place in Nevada isn’t far from the mecca of decadence, Las Vegas, and Castanets evoke that calm surrounding the storm. Arid, Big Sky drones are augmented with echoed chants, noisy bursts of guitar, cinematic electronic interludes. Raposa creates a withering but still landscape, one that still has room for both despair and poetry.
The timeless, weary nature of the disc is most evident on the tracks that spill over into sequels. "High Plain 1," "High Plain 3" (there is no 2) as well as the epic "Refuge 1" and "Refuge 2" sound like some of Dylan’s recent records, evocative of a mythic America, a love/hate for it part of the soul. On these tracks, the sound of a jagged but slightly country guitar is a cry from the wilderness. Yet, as with all fifteen tracks, that cry is not one of loneliness but of presence. For good or bad, Raposa seems to say, there is no other place to be. City of Refuge offers the refuge that comes with being aware of your surroundings and trying to make sense of both good and bad emotions without flinching. It is the refuge from ignorance that makes these songs timeless.