City of Refuge

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Desolation is the canvas on which Castanets mastermind Ray Raposa chooses to present his unique brand of "experimental Americana," and City of Refuge does little to refute that notion. Recorded alone over three weeks in a desolate motel room in Overton, NV, Raposa (no stranger to depression, melancholy, and futility) populates his small corner of the country with a single electric guitar that conjures up images of a spaghetti Western gone all wrong. Similar in tone and timbre to bands like Calexico, Friends of Dean Martinez, and 16 Horsepower, but far more austere, Castanets' fourth album sounds like dust and tastes like rain. Sometimes running idly through myriad patches on an effects processor ("High Plain") or reducing a classic spiritual ("I'll Fly Away") to its last raw nerve, City of Refuge never succumbs to the silence that so obviously surrounds it. Even appearances (overdubbed after the initial field recordings) from Sufjan Stevens, Jana Hunter, Scott Tuma, Dawn Smithson, and Ero Gray feel unobtrusive, resulting in a strange, sad, but ultimately compelling collection of hopeless Western indie folk.

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