Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cyclic Defrost Magazine

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Castanets – Texas Rose, The Thaw & The Beasts (Asthmatic Kitty/Inertia)

Posted: 31 Oct 2009 10:00 AM PDT

It’s taken me a few listens, but Texas Rose, The Thaw & The Beasts is really starting to open up to me now. While there are now quite a number of Asthmatic Kitty artists I follow fairly religiously, this is my first exposure to Castanets. By all accounts it’s song based folkness is a bit of a departure, but then, each of Ray Raposa’s 5 albums has apparently sounded nothing like any of the others, so he’s remaining consistent.

Texas Rose, The Thaw & The Beasts operates in two simultaneous universes. The first impression is of minor key, brooding, country folk. These sections are recorded with brilliant, evocative clarity – every string in every guitar strum, every metal tip of each snare brush, every millimetre of reverb space – clearly audible. But by the time ‘Worn From The Fight (With Fireworks)’ pulses in with glitchy hi-hats and throbbing bass synth like a Thom Yorke solo excursion, it’s become obvious that another layer is also at work, that of electronic experimentalism. ‘Thaw And The Beasts’, in contrast, breaks into a central section which evokes pure digital processing, but is created completely with scratchy acoustic guitar sounds. What sets apart Castanets from the folktronic masses, though, is the very distinct factions between the two. There are moments, such as ‘On Beginning’ and ‘Lucky Old Moon’, where the synthetic and organic take relatively equal billing. But, in general, when the lush acoustic instruments are in command, the processing is subtle, just bubbling below the surface, if at all, and vice-versa. Like intertwining waves, each comes and goes without ever meshing. While this may sound like a recipe for schizophrenia, the overall mood is very consistent in its hazy down beat-ness. All sounds are in the service of the songs and this is what binds the 11 tracks into cohesion.

The consistent, dominant feature of the whole album is the voice of Raposa. He swims through the vocal timbres of familiar artists – Nashville Skyline era Dylan here, Cat Stevens there, Willy Nelson in a mellow mood elsewhere – but doesn’t settle on imitation, ultimately defining his own voice. And that voice is used in the service of aching melodies. ‘My Heart’ is a propulsive dirge whose two-note acoustic guitar riff builds tension until a distant snare snaps in and floating voices haunt the grand spaces. ‘No Trouble’ utilises blues memories and up/down sing song melodies. Tracks like ‘Rose’ and ‘Down The Line’ fall into downtrodden country moulds, with all the simpleness and memorableness of melody that that would infer.

The album ends, however, with its true highlight, the 6 minute ‘Dance, Dance’. A gently accompanied storyteller ballad of temptation, bad decisions, regret and ultimately glimpses of redemption, it highlights everything great about the album. Lyrics which provoke response with their quirks, avoiding any sense of cliché. Take “And when the days all got shorter I said ‘It’s hard to even say who I am / I hadn’t told the truth in months, no, I’d been lying even to my lamb’”. There are evocations of biblical struggle without any recourse to sentimentalism, consistent across the entire disc. It’s a deep, heady conclusion to an album that unfolds with ever more detail the more I listen to it.

For those in Australia, Castanets will be touring over December/January. Texas Rose, The Thaw & The Beasts has been enough to convince me that it might be well worth seeing the live show.

Adrian Elmer

Castanets – Texas Rose, The Thaw & The Beasts (Asthmatic Kitty/Inertia) is a post from: Cyclic Defrost Magazine.

Icarus – Sylt Remixes (Rump Recordings)

Posted: 31 Oct 2009 02:04 AM PDT


While London/Melbourne-based electronic duo Ollie Brown and Sam Britton first emerged as a drum and bass influenced act back in 1998 with heir debut album ‘Kamikaze’ on Hydrogen Jukebox, they’ve spent the ensuing years moving increasingly towards more leftfield sounds tempered with traces of folk, classical and minimalist electronics, as seen on preceding albums for Temporary Residence and Leaf. In many senses, Icarus’ preceding 2007 album saw the duo pushing this experimentalist bent even further, with the tracks contained being remixes of live performances, which in turn had originally been remixes of earlier studio work. Two years on, this accompanying remix collection on Danish label Rump Recordings sees an impressive and diverse selection of remixers offering up consistently inspired and unpredictable new angles on the originals.

Nabo opens things on a glitch-strewn and ramshackle downbeat tip with his fractured hiphop reworking of ‘Volks!, as delayed-out swathes of guitar fretboard texture and turntable pitchbends roll through a dry backing of Dabrye-esque beats, shortly before Opiate deconstructs ‘Keet’ entirely back down to just its base elements, the occasional flutter of acoustic guitar rising up through a murky backdrop of ambient noise, shortly before spidery breakbeats take control of the mix for the second half. ISAN meanwhile offer up a characteristically gentle retake on ‘Keet’ that sends wistful traces of guitar floating against a serene backdrop of digitally processed samples, delicate keys and distant beeping tones, an aesthetic that certainly sits in sharp contrast to Ital Tek’s doomy, mechanical-sounding electro-dubstep reworking of ‘Selfautoparent’, a moment which rolls with all the brooding minor-key menace of his recent ‘Cyclical’ album. There’s also a dark descent into buzzing guitar drones and sudden crashes of noise amidst Svartbag’s epic 11 minute long remix of ‘Jyske’ that provides what’s easily one of the most vast wanders here, before Coil / Throbbing Gristle collaborator CoH strips ‘Keet’ back to just a fluttering broken rhythmic pulse and delicate, almost Japanese-sounding melodic textures in what’s easily one of this collection’s most surprising and effective moments. A consistently inspired remix collection from Icarus that’s well worth exploring.

Chris Downton

Icarus – Sylt Remixes (Rump Recordings) is a post from: Cyclic Defrost Magazine.