Castanets City of Refuge

Castanets City of Refuge
Let’s get this out of the way: City of Refuge is a good record. It lives up to all the critics’ clichés I would otherwise use in this review: eerie, sparse, folky, etc. But something about it irks, to the point where I struggled not to turn it off. A lot of great records come out of Brooklyn, many inspired by settings vastly different from where they were conceived. There’s no harm in admiring a style of music with which you have no personal connection, or mining a varied record collection for ideas. But there’s no getting around it: these people live thousands of miles away from the nearest desert, at the feet of skyscrapers, not mountains. According to his press release, Ray Raposa of Castanets decided to record this record at a "mom and pop motel” an hour outside of Las Vegas. We get it: if this were a horror movie, someone would have died a gruesome death. Admittedly, there’s something neat — maybe "cute” is more apt — about the image of the great bearded singer rasping about "the city of refuge” in a little room on a lonely stretch. But after it was all done, Raposa likely returned to Bed-Stuy, where the bad guys are muggers, not inbred backwoodsmen. City of Refuge has an interesting sound and Raposa is undoubtedly a talented guy. He obviously knows a lot about music and he’s good at getting what he wants across. That’s precisely the problem — the country lunatic approach is just too much, and it interferes with the music. I wish Raposa would situate his next record in the big city — there’s plenty to be scared of there, too. (Asthmatic Kitty)