Bearded guy plus guitar plus home-recording setup plus dingy motel in middle-of-nowhere Nevada equals City of Refuge, the latest album of intimate Americana by Castanets (a.k.a. the project of freak-folk's freakiest freak, Ray Raposa). Although past Castanets records tended to have a sparser, gothic country edge, Raposa's fourth record for Sufjan Stevens' Asthmatic Kitty label has a more cinematic scope. Splitting time between moody instrumentals and sinister hymns (particularly the reinterpretation of public domain song "I'll Fly Away"), Refuge draws great influence from its desolate setting. Harmonies float in the wind like ghost stories lost in a campfire's smoke. Spaghetti-Western guitars reverberate through dusty canyons and Raposa's vulnerable yelps drift along like tumbleweed blowing across vast stretches of desert.
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