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Artist: The Castanets
Label: Asthmatic Kitty
Length: 11 tracks/ 33:31

Folk-country that croons and broods dark but faith-based lyricism, exemplified by production that is clean and clear at one moment, then hollow and cavernous the next; the sounds on Cathedral conjure images of misty graveyards and moonlit quagmires, a lonesome feel and tone that’s almost immediately gripping from the first track and on.  

Most of the songs on Cathedral are of the moody sort, only occasional rays of light- more akin to moonbeams than sunshine--scattered within to provide breaks from the thickness of the rest of the record.  But as dark and brooding as so much of this record is, I wouldn’t quite call any bit of it outrightly depressing.  It is a record that paints a picture of a dark landscape, that surrounds the listener with this sense of drowning and slow descent, that at times produces sounds of hair-raising apprehension, but it does not embrace or even really accept it: “Tt’s all right/ to want more than this” we’re sung to in the album opener.  Instead of being completely lost in the dark, The Castanets, a lantern in one hand, lead the listener carefully through this dimly lit world with the other.

“Cathedral 2 (Your Feet on the Floor Sounding Like Rain)” sets the tone, with horns and effects that suck you in with the slow sureness of quicksand.  “You Are the Blood” sounds like you’re hearing the band playing from some deep, moist and echoing underground mineshaft, until that mineshaft collapses into clamorous bangs and hammering.  The production is done in a way that takes advantage of both the cleaner, studio-crisp sound for certain numbers and purposefully rough, tinny work on others to help evoke whatever mood the song is meant to do.

The style is an embrace of folk-country with avant tenacity, never quite settling into something familiar or usual.  But they do this not with a nose-in-the-air attitude, but with genuineness. The songs are well crafted and complete, not simply different for the sake of being different.  

Cathedral is thrilling to listen to.  While the dirge-heavy nature of the disc will likely turn off some who want something more free-flowing, but I believe most anyone who settles down and gives the record even a second’s chance will be immediately sucked in and impressed by what Cathedral has to offer. 

Jonathan Avants 6/15/05



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