A mix of troubadour and wiry vagabond, Raymond Raposa, the creative force behind alternative pop collective, Castanets, lives on the rails and desert highways, traveling from town to town, dive bar to dive bar. The gruff drifter wears the miles and years in his voice, but instead of letting the melody wallow alongside his wavering pipes, it contorts in the subtlest of ways. Raposa sculpts winding melodies that are monuments of woe that more or less complement the often times quirky lyrical themes.
Decimation Blues is under the radar with its Avant-garde aspirations, but it is evident Raposa is as much about artistic flair as he is about sincerity. Understand that Castanets is Raposa’s musical vessel where he invites guests to leave their melodic contributions. In that light, each song is a one-signed piece.
A transmission from the Great White North, “Thunder Bay” buzzes in through the static with guest Rafter Roberts taking the lead. Roberts takes his cues from Raposa’s wavering, whisper style for this track. The rushing waves carry out this Canadian trek and welcome in Raposa’s toe-tapping, name drop fest, “Out for the West.” This bluesy alternative history track, where frontiersmen run through Utah, somehow blends into a mini tribute to Harvey Milk. It's a tad odd. Throw in the fact that a smiling, pre-buzzkill Sean Penn is referenced on a cover of an October 1994 issue of People Magazine at the beginning, and the cultural lyrical references all tie together in all its quirky glory.
Once you think all Raposa has to offer are celebrity Mad Libs, enter the desolate “To Look Over The Grounds.” A hypothetical discussion amongst the Four Horsemen is the subject of this stormy single. Indecision in the ranks is the least interesting part of this eerie, final days soundtrack. The ghostly moans echo along with Raposa’s deader than a doornail, matter-of-fact storytelling voice.
After lamenting about Sean Penn and the apocalypse, Raposa is in need of a cold one. That’s where “Pour It Tall and Pour It True” is of service. Roberts returns with a sliding guitar that crawls towards closing time as it is “creeping like a vine.” Those “neon reds turn to blue” on this straight up somber ballad anchored by Raposa and guest commiserate Bridgit Jacobsen, whose vapory vocals hauntingly whisper the worry through the early morning air.
Stumbling drunk, “My Girl Comes To The City,” utilizes a patchwork of editing to further make it sound satisfyingly sloppy. It’s rough, its tumble, it can’t stand on its own two feet very long, but it works nonetheless. The guitar and piano sound cobbled together in bits and pieces that complete the dazed effect Raposa is shooting for.
As understated as Raposa sounds on this record, his melodies speak louder than they actually do. Raposa feeds off desolation and ruin, letting devastation bleed through in his music. He’s seen a lot of things, things he would rather compartmentalize in song than weep away. Yet, there’s a spark in there somewhere in most of the songs. Raposa is fractured, but nothing he can’t mend in the studio.