Monday, January 19, 2015

Astral Spirits Records

Astral Spirits is a neat little Austin-based label whose releases are in cassette tape format with digital download in editions of 100 - 150. They’re fun to collect, because the simple graphics are appealing and the format is such a throwback. Part of the fun is finding something to play them on; I broke out my old boombox to give them a spin!

As unpretentious as the label appears, Nate Cross of Astral Spirits (a part of Monofonus Press) is dedicated to releasing serious, challenging music. The first two releases were John Dikeman’s The Double Trio and Hexane by Icepick (Nate Wooley, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten, Chris Corsano). I believe the Dikeman is already out-of-print, but Hexane has been reissued in a different colored cassette. These were followed by Ballister’s The Ballister Monologues, Upés by Broken Trap Ensemble, and Stepped Stoned, a solo effort by drummer Will Guthrie. 

It will be interesting to see where the label goes, because one can already detect a movement away from the free jazz nature of the initial releases. Certainly Ballister fits within that description, but the links grow more tenuous with the skewed chamber music of Broken Trap Ensemble, and the previews on Astral Spirit’s Facebook page of their February 10 releases are of the avant-pop of Tredici Bacci and a minimalist composition by percussionist Nick Hennies.