Like a good insomniac, Raymond Raposa has a psychic anchor at 4 am. While most people are either curled fetal under blankets or hauling recycling bins to the curb, Raposa is awake and busy, crafting folk songs that bear the weary creak of an old cabin floor.
"I'm up sometimes around then," says Raposa. "'Cause I'm restless and I've got a lot of things to ponder and review that I don't always have the time and spirit to take care of in the quick drive of daytime living."
Such distraction-less hours naturally lend themselves to moments of pensive intimacy, a condition affecting each strum and pause of his music. To date, Raposa's after-hours creativity has been channeled into two albums under the moniker Castanets (2004's Cathedral and this year's First Light's Freeze), both of which are fluid song cycles on subjects such as faith, friendship, war, splintering seas, and hungry ghosts. Simple folk numbers strung together by brief psychedelic interludes, Castanets records are sort of a missing link between the No-Neck Blues Band, Six Organs of Admittance, and Clarence Ashley. Musically, the songs teeter vulnerably on a point of collapse but are balanced (perhaps Zen-centered) by Raposa's chilly and assured vocals. It's a delivery wrought with fatalism, just like his words.
Regardless of how solitary he sounds, there is a decidedly communal vibe on both record and stage with the Castanets, one that is more Neil Young's ranch than Devendra Banhart's neo-hippie lovefest. Raposa insists friends are necessary for his music to thrive.
"Since the very first show we played it's been a communal thing," he says. "Even if it was just calling in favors with a friend sitting in for a show because somebody didn't show up. It's very important for me to not have things fixed. I don't have much interest in being a typical indierock band. I don't like the idea of it being the same four people and they go on tour and play the same songs and it sounds great night after night. I know what the record sounds like—I don't need to hear it again."