Castanets is like a coral reef, sunken just beneath the shallow surface waters. It’s visible only when the currents peel back the ocean’s cover, but sharp nonetheless.
The brainchild of Ray Raposa, Castanets have always hinged on both his edged subject matter and dust-dried delivery. And on City of Refuge, the artist continues to uncover prickly lives. Written and recorded in a motel in the small town of Overtone, Nevada, Raposa found isolation there, the uneasiness spilling from the opening four instrumental compositions that set a despondent course into a bag of barren stories. Tin-pan guitar corrupts “Prettiest Chain” and Raposa’s mire mars “Refuge 1,” despite his call, “I am going to run, I’m going to run to, I’m going to run to the city of refuge.” Even Alvin E. Brumley’s “I’ll Fly Away,” a hymn of grace and redemption, flaps its mutated wings at a broken clip.
Castanets is primitive and raw; songs that cut to the bone, despite the textures that ebb and flow, often softening the appearance of the jagged edges. And the pain of City of Refuge isn’t for everyone; some will find refuge, others may drown in desperation, but all will be captivated by the haunted world of Ray Raposa.
City of Refuge is out now on Asthmatic Kitty.