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First Light's Freeze
Artist: Castanets
Label: Asthmatic Kitty/ Sounds Familyre 
Length: 13 tracks/ 33:31
First Light’s Freeze sees Raymond Rapoza inching closer to an upbeat, poppy sound for his goth-folk outfit.  The record works as an extension of 2004’s Cathedral, applying jazz and pop elements to the overall musical formula, with more universal lyrical themes involving fear, war, and mythos, and a more systematic build in song order.  This makes First Light’s Freeze a more accessible record; while still an enrapturing listen, it is less urgently drowning, more gently cloaking than its predecessor.

First Light’s Freeze is every bit as eerie as _Cathedral_, but in a more approachable way.  Rapoza’s hardy, down-trodden vocal delivery takes more of the spotlight, providing a center for the listener to grasp a hold of as they make their way through the at-turns dreamy and nightmarish sounds of the record. There are five short, freaky interludes interspersed throughout First Light’s Freeze, and they work at bridging together the material, adding sustenance to the record as a working whole.  “All That I Know to have Changed in You” is the only song that shakes the flow of the record, the song itself being a disjointed, thickset, incredibly gorgeous melodic-electronic deluge.

There’s expansiveness to the sound of the record, a chilly atmosphere created both by upfront melancholic folk melodies and sustained vocal/synth lines residing beneath.  First Light’s Freeze has its share of surprises. “Into the Night” bears Castanets most up front reference to current world affairs to date, with Rapoza dropping the heavy-hearted line “War is on/ and all our friends are dying” over a slow acoustic dirge.  “No Voice Was Raised” is similar in its themes, but its big moment is its final half, when the song builds into an aggressively rocking, surging mess.  The hymn-like title-track uses raindrops and soft ambience to create a natural, clean peacefulness, the most comforting piece of music the band has crafted yet.

First Light’s Freeze is less immediately enthralling than Cathedral, but it is more refined and balanced in its art, and ultimately stands shoulder-to-shoulder to its predecessor in terms of quality.  Which means it’s fantastic. First Light’s Freeze is a stunning and beautiful psych-folk release.
Jonathan Avants 10/23/05



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