Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brad Kopplin
The inscription on the inside flap of Raymond Raposa's Castanets album Cathedral goes like this, via Kenneth Patchen - a minor writer who helped coin the term "jazz poetry" and looked a helluva lot like Johnny Cash in photographs, "They fill my eyes with tears/The things I love/Suppose they are nothing/They are all I have." Suppose for one second that they do mean nothing - all of the many things you love. It means you'll love them no less. There's no helping the things and people we love. Raposa is keen to this very predated thought that we're prisoners to that which finds us, however it works.
There's an easy-going allure to the tumbleweed procession of his songs - on 2005's First Light's Freeze and 2004's Cathedral -- that portrays a life of smoke, but no mirrors. He strives, with his don't wake the neighbors/heavy on the kind of subtlety that bleeds mysterious darkness voice, to make his songs sound as if they found their creation and birth in a hospital located somewhere in your own ear. They are the terrifically predisposed to being taken in as your own, cared for and served saucers of warm milk before bedtime.
Raposa is a beat poet in his use of real life giving legs to thoughts that existed only in partiality prior to another thought's unfolding. One phrase "the smallest bones" leads to the "smallest breeze" and so on and so on until the song has become something of a living creature that remains unseen and yet unspoken in its physical existence, much like that little flow of wind that can send a grain of sand up to pelt a cheek or prick an open eye. They're so visibly powerful, these songs - like a gust from an oncoming storm - that they needn't have been given bodies and identifiable traits such as skin color and hair style. They're more like the things you love that aren't paid any mind by those who can't live inside you every second of every day.
Catch yourself talking to yourself sometime, wondering what those around you are thinking or wondering about at that particular instance. There's that man you saw walking through the Loop in Chicago just after mid-day, with an attachÃ© briefcase in his left hand and a fist of tiny white flowers in his left. It's a sunny afternoon - not too hot, just right, with a breeze luxuriously blowing off the lake - and there's a casual air about his gait. Where's he off to, you wonder? Back to the office for the rest of the day or to surprise that lovely someone with some flowers? Those flowers mean nothing to us, the feeling he might have for them or who he's giving them to is none of our concern and yet, he might be relying on it to get him to 5 o'clock. Those might be his fumes and they're all he has.
So much of Raposa's touching music is like this. It's for him and when it is that close - that examined - it can become something for everyone. The chair that I sit in writing this is a cracking wooden chair that's seen many better days. It's loud in its groans - wailing the way it did when it was cut and made this way. They could potentially wake the dead with their call. But tonight they are comforting in a dim room with Raposa playing in the background. One can assume they're speaking to each other - these wooden moans and the delicate thrush of Raposa's words. One can also assume that they're madly in love with one another.
*What was riding and playing on boats with Red Hunter/Peter and the Wolf like last year? Did anyone ever go overboard? Who's a better swimmer?*
Raymond Raposa: Aside from near death by capsize in the Chesapeake and a heat impossible to escape, it was amazing. I was the only one to swim on the trip though Red for sure is no stranger to that element. Ended up trying to race the boat for a hundred yards or so and got winded for an hour. Lots of jellyfish around.
*Did you catch any of the Kentucky Derby?*
RR: Caught it accidentally in a Providence bar. Had to put the pool game on hold. 19th to 1st was inspiring and it's always nice to see the affluent south smiling. Lord knows those senators have it hard.
*What are the plans for the next album? Is it coming along?*
RR: Finished it this week via back and forth file sending with the West Coast. Did most of the tracking in SD with Rafter and others. Came back to BKLYN to do Sufjan, Nonhorse and Jana's parts. Went from the lowest of fi to slick as could be and then back somewhere towards the middle. Lots of singers on it. Looks like an October release at this point. There will be another, more beat/electronics driven one a few months behind it.
*I heard you were recently mugged. How did this all happen? What did the dickwad get away with?*
RR: Tracking Nonhorse's parts on the new record. Went to pick up his session pay 6-pack on the corner. Came back one iPod and 40 bucks worse. One gun, three masks, some snow I couldn't run in. Bed-Stuy is serious.
*How have you been enjoying the spring weather?*
RR: Just swung my sleep schedule out of its winter 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. lull, so I've been ecstatic to see any daylight at all lately. It's lovely. Drove out of the city today for Connecticut listening to Toots and the Maytals and I can hardly recall anything more beautiful. So many bodies of water that I would like to be jumping into right now.
*Do you make a habit of dropping in unexpectedly on people like you pleasantly did with us? Have you toured with Matthew/Phosphorescent much in the past or was this a first-time thing?*
RR: I suppose, yes. Maybe. I end up in a lot of places. Usually on accident. When I used to have a car I would drive cross country to sneak up on my girl walk-up waitressing at Sonic or a friend's wedding in Florida. Killed some time. Phosphorescent tour was great. We've toured together quite a bit. Had to either pay Matthew the $750 of "emergency (cough)" loans I'd hit him up for on the last Europe tour (he was drumming for us) or play some bass on his US one. Was made to sit in the back with the gear, but the credit is clean. It was a good crew. It was a good December.
*Our Monday session is of Dirty Projectors and David's notorious for changing things -- sounds, bandmates, etc. -- up from album to album and tour to tour. Aren't you kind of like that too? When I saw you in Austin, you had a good group of chaps up there with you.*
RR: It's pretty important for me to have different ways of presenting this stuff. I feel kinda talked out about it, but new players bringing new things to these forms is very important for the sustainability of the thing.
*What's the best thing you've ever won?*
RR: Probably my first skate contest. I might've been 6 or 7. I remember getting halfway up the quarter, fakieing back down and then cruising around the street course trying to keep the run safe and strong. Many, many pool games have felt like the best at the time.
*What's your drink of choice?*
RR: Pre-set Cuervo shots are required for all players. Everything after usually goes down smooth enough. Lots of Coors Light lately which I swore would never happen. Getting soft.
*What would it be next to impossible to do without?*
RR: Watery domestics. The backsides of certain females. The frontsides of others. An extensive internalization of the works of Joseph Campbell to justify my solipsisms. Legs. Shoulder blades. Mostly the backsides.
*Do you listen to the same kind of music as the kind you make?*
RR: Nope. Grew up punk. Now I live street. It's all Converge and Canal Street mixtapes for me anymore. Closest I would come for 2007 releases would be Jana's record (hits), The Daniel Higgs Holy Mountain disc and housemates Dirty Projectors and Phosphorescent's forthcoming albums blasting through all rooms through demo and post demo beauties. Looks like it might be a dub summer.
*On record, you're a lot quieter, softer than you are live. This must be intentional, right? Do you like being gentler on disc?*
RR: Studios for us end up being not very proper environs for full-on bringing it. Too many couches and headphones. It's good to have that contrast though I think. I think a more restrained template on record ends up providing more options for the live show.
*What are your other interests besides making gorgeous music?*
RR: Making less gorgeous music. Nonhorse and I have a duo planned for summer called Towers. Kind of brutal tape and synth dubs. Dedicated to the peoples of Crown Heights, Ridgewood and Bed-Stuy.
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