Music List | posted 02.06.2020
Rafael Anton Irisarri
10 All Time Favs
Ambient? Maybe. But with splinters of metal, neo-classical and other stuff. Rafael Anton Irisarri paints overwhelming sound paintings with thick brushstrokes. For us the American composer has revealed his influences.
Text Kristoffer Cornils , Translation Sebastian Hinz
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Rafael Anton Irisarri - PeripeteiaFind it at hhv.de: Transparent Red LP, Black LP Rafael Anton Irisarri doesn’t waste his time with spills. When the US-American composer, producer and mastering engineer takes the brush in his hand, he paints with a strong brushstroke. After his debut »Daydreaming« on Erik K. Skodvin’s label Miasmah, the multi-instrumentalist established himself as one of the leading ambient musicians of his time with his 2010 album »The North Bend« for Lawrence English’s label Room40, although ambient didn’t seem to be the right term at the time. Instead of brushing a pastel-coloured wallpaper, Irisarri created a pastoral tableau on the LP, a multi-layered and round picture of the American Northwest that was pervaded by neo-classical sounds and references to »Twin Peaks«. This set the tone for Irisarri’s future work: Among the both fragile and massive mountains of sound in his music, the abysses shimmered in the most surreal, lynch-like colors.

One of Rafael Anton Irisarris main themes is still nature, or more precisely our relationship to it. Already »The North Bend" was a kind of psychographic travel almanac, with »A Fragile Geography« or, most recently, the monumental »Solastalgia«, the American artist deepened his artistic exploration of the interactions between environment and man. The latter in particular was characterized by an intensity that was only fitting for the title: Solastalgia is the term used to describe the emotional and physical stress that the climate crisis triggers in the individual. No light fare. After a joint record with Leandro Fresco, “Peripeteia " for the label Dais Records is now breaking new ground for the first time, or at least going the other way around: elements of metal and (neo-)classical music are assembled to create sparse, overstrained drone music that no longer seeks to explore the inner life through the outside world, but rather wants to make statements about humanity as such from the subjective emotional state. In short, it is, even in Irisarri’s impressive discography, an ambitious record. But he knows all about it, as his 10 All Time Favs show: From the fine brushstrokes of Talk Talk or Harold Budd & Brian Eno, through the shimmering guitar walls of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive to the pulsating rhythms of The Orb and Kraftwerk, his favourite albums are characterised by the fact that they are no less than milestones in their genre.


Die Schallplatten von Rafael Anton Irisarri findest du im Webshop von HHV Records.


Talk Talk – Laughing Stock 1 – Talk Talk – Laughing Stock (Polydor) (1991) | Vinyl LP
Rafael Anton Irisarri: The great late Mark Hollis once said: »Before you play two notes, learn how to play one note, y’know. And that, it’s as simple as that really. And don’t play one note unless you’ve got a reason to play it.« This album is his masterpiece. It’s a record that I listen to whenever looking for inspiration. It’s such a beauty. Everything about this album is great. From the amazing sound to the incredible compositions to the insane level of restrain: most of the music recorded never made the final album. Phil Brown (who engineered it) said: »it takes a strong discipline to erase 80% of the music you record. Few have the discipline to get rid of ‘stuff’.«

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless 2 – My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (Creation) (1991) | Vinyl LP
Rafael Anton Irisarri: The first time I heard »Loveless« it was one of those life-defining moments. Not only it changed the way I play the guitar but also re-contextualized the way I viewed music in general. I remember listening to the first track and thinking: "I do not know what makes that “elephant” sound, but I want to play that!" Kevin Shields is God.

Cluster - Sowiesoso 3 – Cluster – Sowiesoso (Sky Records) (1976) | Vinyl LP
Rafael Anton Irisarri: An album released 44 years ago still sounds like it could have been made & released today. Two German dudes living in the countryside improvising with synthesizers are more impactful than entire orchestras. It influenced scores of people like Brian Eno and many more. I refer to »Sowiesoso« as my “education.” Sparse, warm, and completely timeless.

Cocteau Twins – Treasure 4 – Cocteau Twins – Treasure (4AD) (1984) | Vinyl LP
Rafael Anton Irisarri: It was extremely hard to pick one Cocteau Twins album. Prior to the robbery in 2014, I used to own _every_Cocteau Twin vinyl, CD box set, cassette, etc. If it was released, I had it. Liz Fraser’s voice and Robin’s guitar work in songs like »Pandora« are some of the best interplay during their time together. I met Robin in 2006 and then shared the stage in 2007 and it was really great. I got him to sign my vinyl copy of Treasure and he complemented my guitar sound during soundcheck at this show. My only good reply to him was »of course you dig it, I stole it from you!«

The Orb – Orbus Terrarum 5 – The Orb – Orbus Terrarum (Island) (1995) | Vinyl LP
Rafael Anton Irisarri: Growing up a teen in the middle of nowhere back in the ’90s meant barely any access to the internet (unlike today, when we can think of a record and in a matter of seconds be listening to it). We depended on our local record store, older friends and people with access to a mail order catalog to discover new, interesting music that wasn’t available at chain-stores like Sam Goody or Tower Records. A friend from the industrial scene played this album for me. I remember asking her what this music was called. She said »this is ambient music.« This album by The Orb became the gateway into a long journey of music discovery for me. Orbus Terrarum has many elements that impacted my own music immensely, from field recordings and found sounds to rhythmic syncopation and textural production.

Kraftwerk – Die Mensch-Maschine 6 – Kraftwerk – Die Mesnch-Maschine (EMIl) (1978) | Vinyl LP
Rafael Anton Irisarri: Without Florian Schneider, none of us would be listening to or making the music we make today. “Hugely influential” is an understatement. Unquantifiable inspiration & innovation. One of my favorite things ever is the whole-tone scale starting off ‘Spacelab’ morphing into a really fast LFO. Brilliant AF. Endlos Endlos.

Bohren & Der Club Of Gore – Black Earth 7 – Bohren & Der Club Of Gore – Black Earth (Pias) (2002) | Vinyl 2LP
Rafael Anton Irisarri: This band I didn’t discovered until I was in my mid-20’s but I’m so glad I did. “Black Earth” is one of my all-time favorite albums. Living in the Pacific Northwest at the time, it was simply amazing listening to it on headphones as you went hiking somewhere up in Tiger Mountain. It’s like the best soundtrack to the region. So epic. I had the fortunate of watching them play live twice and they were so incredible. TIGHT. They never looked at each other whilst playing, and they never missed a beat. After their concert in Prague, we went out to dinner and while talking to their drummer, I found out he was a big fan of electronic music from Detroit like Underground Resistance. In fact, he told me their long-form songs were kind of inspired by the long techno jams of Detroit.

Augustus Pablo – East Of The River Nil 8 – Augustus Pablo – East Of The River Nile (Message) (1978) | Vinyl LP
Rafael Anton Irisarri: This album I heard in the Caribbean growing up. It shaped the way I make music today. I was born in the island of Puerto Rico (that U.S. Territory "surrounded by water, big water, ocean water”). Growing up, my access to recorded music was fairly limited – scarce resources is certainly not a friend of the arts & culture. I had an uncle who was very much into Reggae and used to make me mixtapes from songs he’d record from the radio (as he could pick up a station based in nearby British Virgin Islands where they played this music on a regular basis). That’s how I taught myself to play the bass guitar, listening to reggae & dub cassettes. “East oF The River Nile” is my absolute dub album of all time.

Brian Eno & Harold Butt – Ambient 2 9 – Harold Budd & Brian Eno – Ambient 2 (Polydor) (1980)
Rafael Anton Irisarri: Possibly my favorite albums of all time. “Not Yet Remembered” perhaps my favorite piece on the album. I’ve heard this record more times than I can count, since I was like 16 or so. Every time I listen to it, I find something knew, I discover a new secret. Harold Budd is so dear to me. An amazing gentleman and kind soul. When I first started out releasing music, I sent him a copy of my first album, »Daydreaming« and he actually wrote me back, a very short note that read: »Absolutely wonderful Rafael.« Much like his piano playing: economy of notes & words, but incredibly impactful.

Slowdive – Souvlaki 10 – Slowdive – Souvlaki (Creation) (1993) | Vinyl LP
Rafael Anton Irisarri: “Souvlaki” was the soundtrack to my loner late-teenage years. I had barely any friends and music became a way for me to cope with the fact I didn’t seem to belong anywhere. I’ve become good friends with Simon Scott from Slowdive and have collaborated & toured with him on a multitude of occasions. It all feels very full circle, but also dreamlike in a way. When I was 17, never in a million years I’d have imagined this being a possibility. Anything can happen in life I suppose!


Die Schallplatten von Rafael Anton Irisarri findest du im Webshop von HHV Records.

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