1.14.21 by Matty McPherson
Last year, Nate Cross, the labelbossman behind Astral Spirits, pivoted Astral Editions into the cassette game. In an email interview last spring, he told me he was hoping Astral Editions would become a home for outsider and fringe tunes not strictly relegated to jazz. The inaugural tape Voice Games, a collaboration between Ka Baird and x was practically a game of telephone gone towards its most phonetic and surrealist. A novel split from the typical wheelhouse of Astral Spirits, that implied a greater freedom in Astral Edition’s sonic trajectory.
Hali Palombo’s Cylinder Loops is the first release of 2021 on Astral Editions and upon first glance it may look like a minor one: 12 loops clocking in at 18 minutes. Yet, I’ve been sitting with the loops for a month now and it might be the next keystone release for defining the label’s sound.
Palombo’s 2019 and 2020 works have been tinkering with shortwave radio ghosts and fragments; Cherry Ripe practically summons dispatches from the bomb shelters of the atomic era. Sometimes mournful or monolithic, yet with an undercurrent of warmth and bittersweetness to this era. On Cylinder Loops, Palombo takes a dozen fragments (courtesy of UCSB’s Cylinder Archive), highlighting the ghosts in those auditory fragments. Palombo’s loops will be quite familiar should you have a sweet tooth for Lelyand Kirby and Ghost Box (there lies a hauntology tag at the bottom of its bandcamp page).
The cylinder loops have a wicked sense of space they conjure up. Demented carnivals (Loop 8), funeral liturgy (Loop 4), or flickering nitrate print (Loop 3) all provide images of a pre-WWI society on the fringe of a modernity it will soon be crushed under. Palombo then bends that sense of temporality; often pushing the sounds of these loops towards dispatches from futures akin to the dream worlds of Tim Hecker’s Harmony in Ultraviolet (Loop 6/9). The entire affair is precise, not a moment wasted. As a result, it lends itself both to trips across the midwest as much as a rainy morning lost in a foggy haze. You’ll best want to pick this one up before it fades away.
First pressing of 200 with artwork by Tiny Little Hammers available here