Rafael Anton Irisarri: The North Bend

In the last month, I have been assailed by a barrage of packages containing vinyl in the mail. This is a very good thing. It brightens any day, even one that seems at its brightest. Sometime a week or so ago, I received Rafael Anton Irisarri’s The North Bend. Now, I’ll freely admit that I’ve never been too fond of his work as The Sight Below. I always felt it received a level of acclaim it didn’t earn; people called it groundbreaking and I just didn’t hear it.

This record, however, is staggeringly beautiful and really does, somehow, capture a cinemaphonic feel of Seattle’s surrounding areas and climate. It drifts in clouds of static-laden drones and hums; rolling in smooth, glassy, frigid waves of reverberation from Orca pods sounding their sonar and pings like the uncaring rain knocking on everything. A very cyclical record, to say the least and no pun intended.

Maybe part of Irisarri’s ability to capture the Northwest in this way is that The North Bend sounds like he’s extracted the dark, mysterious side of Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack for Twin Peaks. That brooding, contemplative, serious side to David Lynch’s movie, not the cheeky, circus sideshow element to it. And sure enough, with the closing track on Side A, “A Great Northern Sigh”, I start expecting a funny-talking dwarf to pop up amidst the reverse tones that swim like squid, darting to the sub-surface and back to the depths of lightlessness. While the melodic loop of “Traces” is an upward shifting swath of orange and sunlight, it isn’t uplifting. It is hung on, by every soft corner of every note by the prevailing dew of the moments following a rain shower and the gray of the sulking sky above, left empty by its delivery. Call it some kind of a rain cloud’s postpartum depression. What once was a whole divided into two, and whilst there were bonds to be made, one of great significance had been sheared through and, thus, there her tears wetly laid.

This album is gorgeous and has the pace of something I’d probably put on to fall asleep to, but that dark side is what I’m not sure I need to help me with my dreamstates. When you get around to listening to this album, listen with real intention and engrossment, don’t just slap it on and feign attention. A real treat.

Score: 8/10

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