Rafael Anton Irisarri – Midnight Colours (Geographic North, 2018)

Midnight Colours

Virtually every year of the Nuclear Age has been charted by the Doomsday Clock, a representation of humanity’s closeness to global nuclear catastrophe. Midnight is the point of nuclear war, and every preceding second, minute and hour before that demarcates our proximity to this event. It changes every year, fluctuating closer and further away depending on the state of international affairs, and 2018 is the closest to danger it’s ever been: 2 minutes.

Indeed, since Rafael released his record, the clock has moved forwards by 30 seconds, a sign of the quickly changing nature of the political landscape at the moment. It’s an elegant symbol of the world’s precarious fractiousness, and Midnight Colours manifests this in sound, though piece “Two and a Half Minutes” has a strange floaty feeling about it, the ticking synths and machinations of the clock itself oddly disconnected from reality.

Only one piece here directly references any specific world event, with “Oh Paris, We Are Fucked” highlighting America’s abstinence from the Paris Agreement on climate change. It burns darkly and slowly, a simmering mass of multiplexing drone currents that rises insistently, a deep wellspring of textures fraught with antagonistic sentiment with no apparent resolution, or indeed reason, in sight.

Penultimate “Drifting” mirrors some of its damage, shifting great icebergs of drone about the soundscape. Like the dying bergs that slowly recede in the face of global warming, its edges bleed and fray into oblivion, their slow and obvious demise depressing to behold. It does come into force eventually, rallying and grinding, some distant energy pounding for change but it’s all too late. The deed is done and it slides slowly into quietude and loss, hope fled and future bleak.

Opening “The Clock” has a more mechanical feel to it, crinkly static washes accompanying the woozy, rhythmic lull of the electronica. It has a free-flowing sense about it though in the bent guitars, a twisted free will that moves of its own accord straight into the arms of self-destruction in “Falling Curtain”. The stage was set and we had our shot: the end is nigh. Drones cruise with a cinematic quality, fuzzy and conclusive as synths pulsate with metronomic pings, little neon emergency lights blinking in the obliterated darkness or radio beacons searching for life after the calamity.

There’s a sense of moribund acceptance of this in “Every Scene Fades”; not perhaps one of deservance, but more of a sad entropic reality. It croons in sustained tones as slow percussive beats set a funereal pace, mournful yet somehow ominous. Plaintive atmospherics fold ceaselessly, a faint Basinksi air to be found in its softly looping presentation. Though perhaps eerie closer “A Ruptured Tranquility” does hint at a warranted outcome, its bleak outlook mired in thrumming malevolence and rolling drone lines that arrive to saturate the view, periodic intrusions of regressive news and aggressive discourse that stupidly push us deservedly and selfishly to the logical brink.

It’s a dour record, no doubt about it, yet Irisarri finds himself right on the nose with world affairs once again, this politically tuned music beautifully, if depressingly, resonating to the world’s disturbed and off-kilter attitude as of late.