The Astral Spirits label has been on quite a tear the last couple of years, both in quantity and quality, as well as across all the physical media formats. From the insanity of Crazy Doberman to the righteous shredding of Ava Mendoza to the otherworldliness of Rob Frye, the label is pumping out heaps of adventurous sounds across many modes, from a plethora of musicians with diverse origins. The common theme is the stretching and breaking of boundaries. The artists of Astral Spirits are dissolving idioms and blurring genres as they craft the sounds chosen for release on this open-minded imprint.
Case in point: The End and the Beginning, the debut album from the RedGreenBlue trio, who are joined on this effort by multi-instrumentalist Ben LaMar Gay. Each performer has a respectable pedigree from within Chicago’s renowned music scene, which encourages exploration, so it’s not surprising that magical things happen when they combine their talents. As a group, the artists weave hypnotic elements into a smoldering array of embers, releasing pleasant wafts of sound that are limned with flecks of intensity. Paul Giallorenzo’s keyboards provide a lush mist and the ghostly outlines of shapes within the fog. Charlie Kirchen’s bass revels in short, sharp ostinatos that act as the propellant alongside the singular percussive style of Ryan Packard. A subtle electronic filigree adds a fourth dimension to an already robust sound.
Each side of this LP cooks yet does so in a unique way. “The Beginning” is like a pot put to boil. First, the steam appears, and slowly small bubbles form. The vesicles get larger, becoming streams that rise to the surface. Suddenly there’s a roiling mass that froths with intensity. “The End,” on the other hand, kicks off with a high heat sear before it’s left to roast at a lower temperature. Ben LaMar Gay’s cornet provides the flash, egging the trio into a high-energy mode before things even out into a warm, pulsating glow. Both trajectories are exhilarating. Whether the anticipation brought on by the slow burn or the beatific afterglow from a burst of energy, The End and the Beginning brings on many pleasant emotional states. RedGreenBlue don’t offer instant gratification, nor do they bring about delayed gratification; they’ve invented a third mode of enjoyment: sustained gratification.