Saturday, February 18, 2006

Terms & Conditions Apply: Castanets

Calum Marsh

Have you ever recommended a band to a friend with the disclaimer that they have to listen to it at night? It seems like such an odd thing to say, but there is a lot of music that requires the kind of mood that only arrives between midnight and 4am, so occasionally this warning is necessary. Castanets, a band I've been meaning to write about since I joined Mocking Music, requires in my mind similiar recommendation advice, and then some: not only is it absolutely necessary that you hear Castanets during the wee hours of the night, but it's also crucial that you do in the winter. If conditions could be ideal, November would be best, but February will have to do. A drink might be nice, too, so pour yourself a glass if you've got any around.

These conditions sound excessive, but I assure you they aren't. These stipulations make the difference between good and bad; if you heed my advice, I guarantee you'll fall in love with Castanets - If not, it might not go down so well (and probably won't).

I first heard Castanets' when I picked up their most recent album, First Light's Freeze, back in November. I was fortunate, because I just so happened to be listening for the first time in the exact conditions the material required: A cold, dark November night, distraught over various matters and milking a glass of who-knows-what. The result was amazement. I immediately found myself in love with the album, and I couldn't stop listening. I'd stay awake every night, repeating the conditions of the first listen, just so I could duplicate that effect. The album's second last track (though it should really close the disc), 'Dancing With Someone (Privliage Of Everything)', is particularly breathtaking: softly and slowly sung over a little guitar, it's an incredible less-is-more song that pushes the album from good to great (just listen to that goddamn airplane flying faintly overhead near the end - brilliant). I was ready to call First Light's Freeze one of my favourite albums of the year - nay, ever! I was overwhelmed.

But the enthusiasm was doomed to fade away, and quickly. December was starting, exams were ending, things were looking brighter. I starting sleeping more and drinking less, and I soon lost interest in staying awake for a nightly listen to that album which I had so recently adored. I tried listening, still, only now during the day. It scored my bus rides to campus, or to my afternoons writing. The effect was not the same. In fact, the effect was so totally and completely unlike what it once had been that I could hardly believe it was the same record. It dawned on me that First Light's Freeze was perhaps not the marvellous recording I had once paraded so triumphantly.

My current feelings about the album remain somewhere in the middle of my original obsession and my sudden disappointment: there are nights, still, when I can throw on that album and be reminded of why I loved it in November. Occasionally I'll listen while I ride that city bus across town at night, and it seems to make sense. Other days I'll press play and hear nothing of what I once heard, and I'll forget entirely what that sense was all about. It's a difficult balance in my mind, one that, at the end of the day, depends entirely on conditions. 'Dancing With Someone' still consistently wows me every time I listen, but the rest of the album needs to be heard when I'm feeling ready for it (and I'm only ready for it, apparently, at 3 in the bloody morning).

So, what does that mean in terms of my recommendation? Well, you be the judge. If you think you'll be awake at 3 in the morning tonight and you don't feel bright and cheery, give it a try - otherwise, it may be best for you to steer clear. Just remember: only at night, only in the winter. That's crucial.

Castanets - As You Do
Castanets - Three Days, Four Nights
Castanets - All That I Know To Have Changed In You

Castanets - First Light's Freeze
Castanets - Cathedral

Comments on "Terms & Conditions Apply: Castanets"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (18/2/06 3:07 pm) : 

link 2 don't work...


Blogger Calum Marsh said ... (18/2/06 3:51 pm) : 

You sure? I just checked it out and it seemed fine.


Blogger Casey Dorrell said ... (19/2/06 12:41 am) : 

Ha ha, great article. The founding members have returned with many new CDs.

And that link definately works.


Blogger Calum Marsh said ... (19/2/06 12:01 pm) : 

Whoo-hoo - Casey's back.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (19/2/06 7:34 pm) : 

it's a link to the wrong song. it works fine, it just isn't the link it says it is!


Blogger Calum Marsh said ... (21/2/06 2:38 pm) : 



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