Happy Thursday! Here’s my pick, hopefully all the links work…
‘The North Bend’ by Rafael Anton Irisarri (Room40)
I often discover artists who make this kind of music at a point when they already have quite an extensive back catalogue. The first few came around 2011 as my tastes were expanding a bit more, with Oneohtrix Point Never (‘Replica’) and Tim Hecker (‘Ravedeath, 1972’ - sorry @AphexTwinkletoes I still hold this up as one of his very best records). I was quite close to making Hecker’s 'Haunt Me, Haunt Me, Do It Again’ my pick, until it got a fresh slap of exposure from Kranky’s recent reissue. The reason I waffle on about this is it’s overwhelming just how much incredible music there is, and almost impossible to find the time it deserves. It’s especially daunting when you come to an artist three or four albums in, as I found with the work of Rafael Anton Irisarri.
I wasn’t familiar with Irisarri’s music until ‘A Fragile Geography’ was shared on these here boards, and was instantly drawn to the incredible track Empire Systems. Last year Irisarri realsed two superb records that I absolutely rinsed, and he’s already released two more this year. Just keeping up with his output, alongside the work he does as owner of Black Knoll Studios, is a challange, so i’d put off invesitgating the albums that came before ‘A Fragile Geography’ for too long. Of the two that I’ve listened to recently (the other being ‘The Unintentional Sea’ - also on Room40, and well worth your time) I’ve been blown away by his 2010 album ‘The North Bend’. In an interview with Headphone Commute Irisarri said "The North Bend is an audio representation of the Pacific Northwest region, and not just with the fairly obvious ‘rainy, gloomy skies’ clichés, but more in the folk, cultural traditions and pop-culture references. They sort of influenced the creative process and helped draft a audio postcard of this beautiful area of the United States” (full interview: https://reviews.headphonecommute.com/2011/04/02/interview-with-rafael-anton-irisarri/).
I’ve not been to the PNW region, but I have consumed a fair amount of it’s pop culture references, thanks Mr. Lynch, so this definitely rings true. So far I’ve listened to ’The North Bend’ around 10+ times, but to me it conjures up such emotive cinematic imagery in it’s beautiful soundscapes. It instantly caught my attention and drew me in with it’s atmosphere and mood, alongside an unnerving foreboding feeling, but it doesn’t get lost in that darkness. It has such an impressive production (mastered by Lawrence English) that doesn’t overwhelm, and is wonderfully layered and structured. Along with it’s use of repeated loops (stunningly so on the track Traces) it all comes together to build these large landscapes both in your headphones and your mind. I’m really coming to love this record, and hope it gets a reissue some day soon.
Writing about this kind of music isn’t something that comes naturally to me, it’s often more about a feeling, and writing about it can be very tricky. Hopefully this introduction as to why I’ve chosen ‘The North Bend’ helps to convey the album’s beauty, and how I finally got round to discovering it. It’s fast becoming my favourite Irisarri LP, and I hope you lovely folks enjoy it too.
tl;dr - It’s a Rafael Anton Irisarri album from 2010, you all like him, right?