Rafael Anton Irisarri :: A Fragile Geography (Room40)

This release splits the difference between these two paths; dark and unsettled embers that only very rarely grow into larger flames, savoring a more focused, subtle sound.

Rafael Anton Irisarri :: A Fragile Geography (Room40)

Populating his songs with treated guitar, field recordings, and computer processing, Irisarri presents a well engineered and inviting album of considerable emotional range. This full length makes his third outing on Room 40, a label that has paid equal attention to domestic, placid ambient as it has to more exploratory, dangerous outings. This release splits the difference between these two paths; dark and unsettled embers that only very rarely grow into larger flames, savoring a more focused, subtle sound.

As slow as the builds may sometimes be, each track usually moves linearly from quiet, introspective parts and grows vertically in the frequency spectrum while broadening emotionally. It is no surprise that Irisarri has also worked with dance music tropes elsewhere, his The Sight Below project places a filtered techno pulse between gauzy clouds of sustained guitar, utilizing regular development as a tension building device. This deliberate pacing and relatively short pieces, most around eight minutes, makes for fundamentally dramatic music that does not stain a listeners attention.

During most of the six tracks on this album, this structure produces tracks that are both emotional subtle and satisfying while being open to unique sound and character. “Reprisal” is centered around a figure of guitar noise, increasingly stretched out by filters and panned into a tightly coiled ball, while anchored by bass notes. The too short “Haitus” spits up trembling notes not unlike Jon Hassell’s bleaty harmonized trumpet. “Persistence” wields an effectively tender melody paired with live sounding strings and blown out sonics. The exception, “Empire Systems” wraps up the first side of the album; driven by a two-chord vamp, guitar and churchy organ streams reach towards Explosions in the Sky level melodrama, abandoning cooler moods for a oversized and reaching triumphant tone.

The final track in particular Irisarri displays a stunning potential. Ending the album, “Secretly Wishing for Rain” recalls the
deep anguish of Loren Connors guitar works despite being slightly overcrowded by strings and synthetic pads. Single guitar notes are played in a cycling but unhurried manner, trialed by the buzzing ugliness of a broken amp. Devotional and devastatingly broken notes played towards the uncaring cosmos.

A Fragile Geography is available on Room40.

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