Rafael Anton Irisarri – The Shameless Years (Umor Rex, 2017)

The Shameless Years

I think we’ve all felt the same way lately, of waking up in the morning or coming home from work in the evening and looking at the news or social media and thinking: “When will it end?”. Every day it’s something different, and personally I’ve found myself disengaging from a lot of those platforms to avoid all the drama, all the endless political discourse. Morally reprehensible forces seem to hold a powerful grip over all of us at the moment in one way or another, and Irisarri’s apt The Shameless Years finely details the strange and emotionally tense times we live in.

There’s no true sense of beginning here, in the same way that at no point does it really see an end in sight; opening “Indefinite Fields” slowly drifts into view already in motion, drone wheels turning and static harshness buzzing indistinctly. There’s a chaotic edge to it, a clamour barely held out of sight as the amorphous din of the backfield slews into a sludge of almost torturous sounds, a vista of smudged, seething activity without conclusion. It feels like it could just go on forever, terminating dimly only when we close our eyes and disassociate ourselves from the world in sleep.

We’re all just animals, all of this is just part of what we are, it’s in our blood. “RH Negative” has a strong The Sight Below vibe in its gorgeous mechanistic, cinematic guitar croonings, a slow motion noir experience of paradoxical beauty. It sounds like we’re in brawl, a screaming crowd of our fellows around us, adrenaline surging and slowing the world to an impossible crawl as flames dance from asphalt and stones rip against riot shields: just another cog in the historic wheel of anger and revolt.

There’s a certain over dramatic edge to things here which echoes the polarising media of today, as though all this is more than just a recoverable blip and that things are just going to sink further into shit. It can certainly be felt in “Sky Burial” as the guitars burn with mournful vigour: whether they cry out for the lost stability of the past or at the sense of hopelessness in the future is perhaps just a matter of perspective. Either way the physicality and depth of its feeling is apparent as it screams out the world’s injustices, only to lapse into the cold fugue of the final two pieces accompanied by Siavash Amini.

It’s here where the album retreats from it all, like we all have and are doing. It sinks into itself, shutting off the TV and turning off the internet, “Karma Krama” descending into a blue and black world of loneliness and despair. There’s no hope here, the drones becoming thin and strained as we succumb to darker thoughts and pray to revenge and karmic justice. We become the closer: “The Faithless”. Reduced to a slow trickle of energy we’re suspended in a profound sense of loss and hollowness as the world around us just seems to drain of all goodness. For a few brief minutes it climaxes into tension, a brittle slash of refined bitterness swept out into the empty air before it slips away into increasingly meagre absence, all strength removed.

We must never sink so low, never allow ourselves to become so disconnected from the potential goodness of things. The Shameless Years is certainly a striking and accurate portrayal at the increasing disenfranchisement in those who fight the good fight, for the task to erode repression and bigotry certainly seems like an insurmountable and endless task, but it’s a necessary one. All this will subside, and I’ll be able to finally turn on the news and reconnect again, but we have to fight for it first.