Texas Rose, The Thaw & The Beasts

Rating: 2.0/5.0

Label: Asthmatic Kitty

Under the Castanets moniker, Raymond Raposa has explored the organic terrain of earthy, lo-fi recording while simultaneously teasing out tracks built on spacey keyboards and electronic blips. Raposa’s harsh, weary voice is a fine country whine from generations past that he shapes with perfect control, warm and comforting when called for, and full of lament elsewhere. While it may be short-sighted to flat-out say his acoustic compositions are much stronger than his synthesizer ideas, there is no question his voice fits better with a moaning guitar.

So, Texas Rose, The Thaw & The Beasts is another mixed bag that longtime Castanet fans have come to expect of Raposa. Almost literally reading one-for-one through the track list, he alternates between wallowing in freak folk and his tinkering with Thomas Dolby-like aspirations. Predictably, the result is uneven and often clashes.

Texas Rose
starts with one of its strongest tracks, “Rose,” which builds and unfolds in the way most of Castanets’ better songs tend to. The seemingly small background additions to Raposa’s guitar sneak up on the listener, with a few piano flutters and some resonating guitars, until the track is overrun by organs, percussion and incredibly creative background vocals. “My Heart” features the dirty, low-end blues that Raposa does so well, an excellent set-up for “No Trouble,” an aggressive full-band effort that plows forward with heavy drums, piano and a near-absurd level of wailing guitar. Raposa keeps the album strong with “Thaw and the Beasts” and “Down The Line, Love,” but the momentum these songs would create if they were all in order is diluted by Raposa separating them with his synthesizer ideas.

The first hint of trouble is the album’s second track, “On Beginning,” a slow-building wash of keyboards that are so well-produced they immediately kill the live roadhouse feel of the opener “Rose.” However, “On Beginning” is just theatrical enough that, for a second, you believe this just might work. But it only gets worse from there, with “Worn from the Fight (With Fireworks)” sounding like one of those god-awful Bloc Party remixes and “Lucky Old Moon” being so consumed with ’80s Oriental-sounding keyboards it’s almost impossible to pay attention to what Raposa is actually singing. Finally, the whole thing goes to hell with “We Kept Our Kitchen Clean and Our Dreaming Quiet” never amounting to anything and “Ignorance Is Blues” opening with a minute of whirring for nothing more than a 15 second saxophone solo.

Texas Rose finishes strong with “Dance, Dance,” which, thankfully, sounds nothing like its title. The dark closing track works as a perfect bookend to an album “Rose” started, and in the end, Texas Rose does feel like a good album, but not one that you ever really care to hear again.

by Brian Loeper
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