♫♪  Ross Goldstein - “Catwatching”

Sintra is a small coastal town outside of Lisbon, where the capital-R Romantic Portuguese aristocracy — the politically castrated by financially well-endowed descendants of the monarchy — built a couple small castles. Small as in not fortresses; faceless nouveau riche have added their own sprawling villas and compounds to the Riviera over the years, but the Quinta da Regaleira is by far the most beguiling and extensive. It was built to look like a fairytale, and the terraced gardens contain caverns, waterfalls, and secret tunnels that connect the house to different spots on the grounds, all having some cute, mystical purpose. You can cross beneath a waterfall by jumping between stones and exit out of a grotto onto the site of fake/real ruins. Most impressively, you may descend a 100 ft.-deep Initition Well into the earth, down a inlaid spiral staircase built for tarot rituals, or whatever other weird fetishes rich people in tights and tunics had.

By today’s cultural standards, the Regaleira’s proximity to Disneyland makes the whole thing seem contrived. These days, the uber rich buy Bond Villain mansions that look like garish marble chocolate bars, and their fantasies are more along the lines of surviving complete environmental annihilation on a yacht with a gaggle of supermodels versus, say, discovering elves in green boots living in a grotto on your lawn. One thing connects the Regaleira to the modern though: a grass tennis court, with a stone-viewing platform and ivy growing along one side, for exhibition matches between the virile elite. After all these years, tennis is the one thing that retained its relevance, while the rest of the grounds devolved into a playground for tourists and Instagram influencers, who are, unsurprisingly, not very subtle. As if out of respect, nobody is allowed on the tennis courts.

The video for Ross Goldstein’s “Catwatching” contains paddle sports, a focus on elaborate poses and movements, and a mystical, baroque soundtrack (the video was also shot in the Catskills of New York, another part of the world where fallen aristocracies build ostentatious mansions in the woods). Strings bump and jerk, and little bells chime like water cascading onto rock. The character’s seem to be playing an innocent version of Calvinball. In the pitch dark, though, they are like performers lacking a sense — swimming in time, like a blind violist reaching for their bow. Goldstein’s upcoming album The Eighth House was recorded entirely on Mellotron and is full of these exotic vignettes, similar to the momentary improvisations of Christina Vantzou, if it were combined with the colorful horror of a campy fantasy novel. Definitely worth a listen.

Head on over to Birdwatcher Arts for the pre-order — it’s out October 26 — and peep the visuals above.

Chocolate Grinder

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we’ll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.

Most Read