Review: Castevet – Summer Fences (2009)

Chicago’s Castevet has undergone musical changes, tilting the light upon vocals and away from the musical landscapes crafted in Summer Fences. I had not known this digging into 2010’s The Echo & The Light. So when the album started spinning, this revelatory illumination brought me instantly into the band not for the fact a Chicago punk band is bringing me back to a scene I set aside years ago, but to the fact they do it as well as prior masterful albums. Instantly it heavily reminds me of the phenomenal, short-lived Prosperity Wallet, who released the Electric Noose EP-then disappeared.

Summer Fences rolls along the rails of post-hardcore, emblematic of the manner Prosperity Wallet unveiled their track list by use of solely images; it took investigating to know the actual names. Post-hardcore is painting a landscape through instruments, often accompanied by a vocalist. Castevet’s vocalist draws clear comparisons to Hot Water Music‘s Chuck Ragan (à la 2001’s A Flight and a Crash) and Bars of Gold‘s Mark Paffi. Post-hardcore relishes in instrumentals, using broad brushes to paint heavy strokes led by guitars, often with only a few tracks on an album as with this; 8 songs, clocks in over 45 minutes. If you want to be brought somewhere, lose yourself in the woods of staffs and clefs similar to Ratatat yet more substantial instrumentally, Summer Fences will take you there.

[soundcloud url=”http://soundcloud.com/mezzic/castevet-plays-one-on-tv”]

It is rather tough to describe in words what is otherwise done predominately through the medium of notes. Ron Petzke’s vocals are hard to distinguish, another common element with post-hardcore that a few have accomplished (e.g., The Felix Culpa and Able Baker Fox), so the listener is left to Willy McEvilly’s and Nick Wakim’s guitars, and Josh Snader’s drums. “Plays One on TV” is out the gate with intricate coils of guitars spiraling away from a bass foundation that catches and releases them periodically. It’s the common centerpiece that ensures that no single member decries mutiny on this melodic harmony. The spiraling scales continue until giving into Ron’s bass to rest, then slowly build. The inclination would be to burst out in whatever which way, as Muse tends to do too often, yet post-hardcore and Castevet show restraint in a genre so close to punk and intricate rock. “I Know What a Lion Is” shows the extravagance perfectly as they are allowed to run free in that creative forest before stumbling into an open and airy guitar isolation. Instead of returning to a constrained sonic bombard, it is more like the drum-led crescendo in “Glósóli” by Sigur Rós, video imagery included of children running in slow-mo towards cliffs. (Castevet’s song is longer.)

“When a Movie is Made in France, It’s Called Cinemas” closes 2009’s album, starting unassumingly and with pure musicianship akin to a jam or jazz band mentality where one’s instrument reflects the others’. Bright, clear guitar gleans past the drums and bass in concocting the soil and sky with little in between. It remains that way until chorused vocals sing through verse and verse. Using vocals that way, as a method to force a song higher than already elaborate instruments can no longer take, is where Summer Fences truly stands out from a tightly-controlled post-hardcore environment, and starts to stand out against those who came before them a decade plus ago. If only they would exploit that, granted it’s tricky and very subtle, and they would distinguish themselves more from the great company of Small Brown Bikes of the world.

Castevet
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Rating: 6.5/10
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