Monday, June 19, 2006

A Review of the New Nick Castro CD

A version of this is now posted in the Ptolemaic Terrascope's May Reviews.
Nick Castro & the Young Elders - "Come Into Our House"
(CD on Strange Attractors Audio House)

Here is a something I've been listening to a lot lately - a CD (soon to be double LP in Europe) that could well end up being one of the year's finest (whether it is recognised as such or not in the fickle world of neo/freak/folk is another matter). Nick achieved some kind of breakthrough on 2005's "Further From Grace", which I summed up elsewhere to be "the kind of album that refuses - and is in fact demeaned by - easy reference points in the present and past, existing as a sui generis masterpiece of new acoustic music, and a model for what might fly in the future to replace to already tattered and stained flag of “freak folk”. British, American and Middle-Eastern traditions are respectfully drawn together, and it’s difficult to imagine improving on any decision made on the record". On "Further From Grace" Nick was backed by "The Poison Tree", which included Josephine Foster and members of Espers. For "Come Into Our House" he has gathered "The Young Elders" - a fine assemblage of musicians including John Contreras, who is so effective on the latest Current 93 CD; B'eirth, driving force behind In Gowan Ring and Birch Book, and various members of Cul de Sac and Damo Suzuki's Network. This new line-up has allowed Castro to achieve a vision that is cinematic in scale and faultless in execution.

The disc opens with "Winding Tree", which echoes the mellow 70s UK folk of the Village Thing label, and The Sun Also Rises album in particular, with its intertwining male and female vox and recorder. A beautiful Renbourn-ish guitar pattern introduces the exquisitely-wrought "Sleeping in a Dream", which transitions from a dreamy west coast singer-songwriter vibe, to a hypnagogic percussive conclusion. Taste and restraint, rather than self-involved quirkiness, is thankfully the key here. The work of John Renbourn is also recalled by the stately, almost medieval, instrumental "Picollina", on which Castro lays down a stunning guitar motif which is gradually picked up by more and more instruments. The fluent folk-rock of "One I Love" (a Jean Ritchie cover) could be a lost Trees out-take, with long-time Castro collaborator Wendy Watson contributes some fine vocal work, and swathes of beautifully phrased, multi-tracked electric guitar from Castro tripping off into psychedelic realms. The CD then takes a distinctly Middle-Eastern turn with the snaking instrumental "Attar" and the shimmering and suspenseful dune-scape of "Voices from the Mountains". The latter suggests that Castro may have a career in film music should he choose to go that route. More fine song-craft in "Back to the Coast" leads into the first of two lengthy workouts. The first, "Lay Down Your Arms" is a communal acid mantra of monumental proportions, its raga structure evoking Monterey and the birth of the late 60s Bay Area ballroom scene, as well as German touchstones like Amon Duul 2 and Can. The second, "Promises Unbroken", is progressive folk of the Can variety; Contreras' cello introducing a caravanserai of a piece with many stop-overs in exotic destinations. It's a compositional tour-de-force, and a fitting way to conclude a CD with which Castro signals his arrival as a major progressive folk force independent of any scene, or place in time.
(Released 27 Jun 06)


Post a Comment

<< Home