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(Asthmatic Kitty)

Upon testing out of high school at age 15, one Mr. Raymond Raposa hopped on a Greyhound bus and travelled the country on and off for the next four years. While the experience of seeing large parts of the United States was no doubt a large learning experience for the teenager, I can personally attest that riding a bus also allows one to meet a very fair share of interesting characters. In the couple times I rode a bus long distances, I not only struck up conversations with a fellow who was trying to escape street gangs (and showed me 3 bullet-wound scars to match), but kept my head down as a verbal altercation two seats away from me nearly led to fisticuffs.

At any rate, I can see how spending any amount of time on a bus can lead to great stories and situations, and while Raposa doesn't mention anything too directly on this release, there's a sort of seen-it-all quality to Cathedral that's surprising to hear from such a young artist. Although one could sorta compare the group to the eccentric country-esque leanings of Sparklehorse, Castanets seem to be more interested in letting sounds breath and expand and letting their words do the same (and perhaps even take on a life of their own in the process).

Clocking in at just over a half-hour, Cathedral also manages to sound like much more than the sum of its parts (three tracks subdivided into eleven pieces). "Cathedral 2 (Your Feet On The Floor Sounding Like The Rain)" opens the disc with dreary guitar strums, sparse percussion and subtle theremin while the words of Raposa drag like someone at the end of a long journey as studio rattles and clanks echo. After a short interstitial track, "Industry And Snow" opens with quiet guitars and toy piano before busting loose into a feedback-drenched stomp that really lights up the album.

From there, things drop from the squall back into sparse as "You Are The Blood" again rattles like a graveyard serenade while "No Light To Be Found (Fare Thee Faith, The Path Is Yours)" takes things back to just guitar, lo-fi electronics and the vocals of Raposa. The stark and haunting effect makes for what is easily one of the best tracks on the entire release, and although there are short outbursts on the album to punctuate things, the group keeps things simple most of the time and the simple ambience of the recordings makes it even more powerful. A great release from a group who already has more in store.

Rating: 8