Astral Spirits cassette / digital
It’s probably my teenage immersion in rock music that has left me wary of outfits in which family members are expected to coexist in harmony. In rock and roll, families are usually trouble – and brothers seem particularly combustible. Phil and Don Everly, Ray and Dave Davies or even (gulp) those glam oafs Liam and Noel Gallagher – where genetics are involved, talent and acrimony go hand-in-hand.
Elsewhere, of course, shared DNA doesn’t have to result in fireworks. The Staples Singers, The Carters, The Watersons, The Copper Family – certain genres are studded with configurations in which blood is an assumed precursor for increased musical understanding.
East of the Valley Blues certainly fall into this latter category. Over a handful of tapes, downloads and the occasional vinyl release, Toronto siblings Kevin and Patrick Cahill have refined their meditative acoustic guitar improvisations into a deft musical telepathy that lets them channel the sublime through their chosen medium of wood and wire.
What makes the Cahills such an enticing prospect is their ability to draw on wide and varying musical traditions, mobilising them into waves of spontaneous music making whose mongrel nature creates a delightful and addictive hybridity. ‘Ressemblera’ is no exception, spiralling and twisting from brittle, folky clusters, through rock-inflected repetition, to wide-open expanses of rippling vibrations.
Most of ‘Ressemblera’ is taken up by a single, 30-minute piece, complemented by a much shorter coda. While there are probably more thrills in the longer cut (‘Ressemblera’), you won’t want to miss the hazy, chilly moods of its companion (‘Reassembler’) either. Not that things don’t get going promptly. ‘Ressemblera’ sets out its stall early with a lovely opening section that recalls Bert Jansch at his most prickly, the background scuffles and squeaks adding to the intimate feel.
Around a third of the way in, the two players are in full-on mind-meld, with an extended vamp in waltz time that would be courtly if it weren’t so hypnotically aggressive. Melodies and motifs rise out of this swirl and die back again like twigs thrown into a fast-flowing river, their perpetual renewal rendering any attempt to track their progress impossible. Better keep your mind switched on, though. Instead of floating downstream, you’ll need to keep your head above the choppy waters until you’re washed up on the bank, soaked through but exhilarated, exhausted but alive.