Even though the sound expanses traversed by ambient music often evoke feelings of horizontality, layered planeness and volatile textures tranquilly billowing out, it is also true that the greater representatives of the genre and its sub-branches – like mountaineers – mostly seek for sky-scraping verticality. Ranking high in the pantheon of atmosphere architects, Rafael Anton Irisarri certainly has nothing left to prove. Since his beginnings over ten years ago, his output has gained a density that very few can boast having reached, establishing a sound that has the power to haunt your nights and the crucial energy to bring your most buried existential dreams out of mothballs.
Shrouded in melancholic vapours and forlorn harmonics, Irisarri’s new album for Umor Rex presents four majestic extended cuts as so many viewpoints on an untouched phantasmal valley. Drawing its name from the Basque word for ‘drizzle‘ – which makes absolute sense given the fine-grained, caressingly fresh nature of its sound design, ‘Sirimiri‘ offers sensations in their purest essence, primitively symbolic yet actively contemplative. Where his previous full-length ‘The Shameless Years‘ had more of a demiurgic dramatic tension going through it, which gave it a further “composed” approach, ‘Sirimiri‘ feels less refined and more abruptly sculptural.
The opening track, ‘Downfall‘, kicks things off on a particularly bleak and austere note, submerging its listener in a sort of faded high-altitude euphoria. Minimal drones cloud the skyline as Irisarri deftly orchestrates his wonderful ballet of understated modulations and darkened timbres. Smoothly fading in, the album’s highlight ‘Sonder‘ expands the radius to further high-level elegiac spheres, astoundingly poignant and overwhelming, each bar weightlessly elevating upon fantasized mountain scapes, rife with craggy peaks and steep hogbacks, as it fully absorbs you in its restful tide of slow-scudding pads and guitar riffs.
To label Irisarri’s music mourning or pining would equate to ignore the boundary-pushing fortitude of his art. The soothing ‘Vasastan‘ and ‘Mountain Stream‘ leave behind the weatherbeaten force of the previous numbers, instead flourishing in the quieter, ethereal heights of the spectrum. Here again, Irisarri demonstrates his unmatched capability at crafting constantly changing organic soundscapes, juggling with overly complex textural interplays but making it all look so easy and seamless. Showing off a crucial, frontal, universal quality that’s nothing easy to achieve, Irisarri bewitches and transports, confirming once and for all he’s one of the most singular and vibrant voices in contemporary music, and ‘Sirimiri‘ one of his most accomplished records to date.
Sirimiri is released via Umor Rex on 16th March, pre-order a copy from Bandcamp.
4. Mountain Stream
5. Sirimiri Continuous Mix (Bonus Track)