What Strange Beasts Go Far and Beyond on Starlight’s CastawayS LP

By Deuce

Yes, sir; yes, sir. What Strange Beasts have put together quite an album with Starlight’s Castaways, which will be landing soon on 02/03/2023, for those who caught that. We’re talking a solid 26-track affair in which the quartet spans the universe and back (as the title implies).

Along the way, they plummet the depths of both acoustic and electronic instruments, from drums to guitars. And, they mostly do so with a decidedly spirited harmony between the three vocalists, Jonathan Maxwell, Benjamin Ruby, and Aaron Kremer—although the majority of the leads likely come from Ruby and Kremer.

This is a concept album about a voyage into the empyrean, and that which one happens to find along the way. You’ve got some cuts that last the better part of 10 minutes. Others barely scratch the surface of one. Sometimes, the tempo rages wonderfully fast, almost dizzyingly so in parts. Other times, there is no tempo, no percussion, and just a cascading arrays of sounds to catch you, hold you, and rivet you to wherever you are.

“One Time Pad” typifies this notion, which is far from achieved easily. However, the tune can facilely entrance anyone into a spell-like state with acoustic guitars just begging to be sampled and some sort of lead similar to a flute, yet deliciously not, timing precise patterns for no more than two minutes.

The album’s agenda, of course, is found within its title as well as that within the titular cut. “Castaways” has almost a late 1950’s rock appeal, all save the lyrics in which the gentlemen wish “goodbye galaxy/we’re headed for the next one”. Outer space travel via music; the journeying of the soul into the beyond, the astral plane? Par for the course on this outing, and for the duration of the Long Player as well.

“Scattered Skies”, however, likely shows the best of what the group (which also features Alley C on a range of guitars) has summoned. The tune is imbued with a magical drum pattern that would pique the ear of any emcee. However, Alley’s efforts are pirouetting in the distance with whirling, acoustic-sounding guitars that get to the root of the issue when the rest of the music is stripped away to just the drums.

The strength of this cut, and that of the album, is the band’s ability to find cool shadows as well as splaying light, and to time its music accordingly to make the best of both.

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