More proof that Weird America is thriving comes from Castanets' Asthmatic Kitty debut, Cathedral, an album that earns its title through its expansive sound and spiritual searching. Raymond Raposa's apocalyptic version of Americana -- which he calls "derailed psychedelic country" -- borrows from the traditions of country and folk but never sounds traditional, thanks to unusual arrangements that feature toy pianos, woozy brass, dulcimers, and clanking, arrythmic percussion alongside the more expected acoustic guitars, harmonicas, and pedal steel. The album's sound is indeed psychedelic, but in a spare, haunting way that lets the spaces in the music speak as much, if not more, than the music itself. Cathedral's songs tend bleed and blur into each other, adding to the album's half-remembered, fever-dream feel, but when moments like the feedback-laden porch jamboree "Industry and Snow" and the beautifully ghostly "You Are the Blood" arrive, they stand out all the more. There's a certain dark theatricality to the album's sound, particularly on its centerpiece tracks, "No Light to Be Found (Fare Thee Faith, the Path Is Yours)" (a breakup song that could be about the end of a relationship or a lapse in belief) and "Three Days, Four Nights." However, Cathedral sounds less contrived, and more immediately inviting, than the brooding of likeminded artists such as Will Oldham's many incarnations. Raposa's searching sounds genuine, particularly when he sings of "just waiting to be lifted up" and "the way we refuse to be saved." It's particularly effective, and affecting, on "The Smallest Bones" and "We Are the Wreckage," where he addresses God directly, but even relatively lighter songs like the gorgeous ballad "As You Do" and the brief, drum machine-driven closing track, "Cathedral 4 (The Unbreaking Branch and Song)," reveal a nearly constant questioning of faith. Though Raposa doesn't necessarily find many answers on Cathedral, his exploration of belief -- and the lack thereof -- is captivating.
by Heather Phares