Wednesday, September 24 2014
The Sight Below is an alias of Rafael Anton Irisarri, an American composer, multi-instrumentalist, curator, producer and interdisciplinary artist based out of the Pacific Northwest.
The music of The Sight Below conjures half-remembered dreams and soft-focus sentiments with elegiac beauty; like blurred snippets of film recognizable only as organic objects: black-and-white amoebas milling about, or a sunset rendered in grayscale. The resulting textured Gaussian curves are pinned to deep, propulsive bass tones and achingly subtle electronics. These guide the listener across the gloom and towards the music’s hopeful center. The results seem as effortless as natural phenomena; in fact, they’re carefully played, head-nodding hymns to the artist’s secluded life.
Glider (and its accompanying No Place for Us EP), released on Ghostly International in Autumn 2008, introduced a dark ambient techno aesthetic equally inspired by shoegaze, David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” and Wolfgang Voigt’s minimalistic rhythms. The album combined layer upon layer of processed guitars and electronics with muffled percussion and bass pulses, all improvised and recorded live. These works were described by All Music Guide as “impeccably made ambient thump-and-drone”, while Pitchfork Media praised them as “a beautifully bleak cloud of sound.”
Murmur followed in 2009 and included remixes by Arctic techno pioneer Biosphere, Eluvium, and Simon Scott (ex-member of British icons Slowdive). It steered Irisarri’s direction towards a Basic Channel/Chain Reaction territory – a self-admitted early influence on the artist’s sound. FACT magazine gave the EP a 4/5 rating and it was featured as “Single of The Week” on Boomkat, calling it an “excellent use of its feathered ambient core, lightening up an uptempo dub-techno template with plumes of abstract, floating textures.”
The following year The Sight Below released another eclectic, yet well-received album, 2010’s It All Falls Apart. Featuring vocals by fellow Seattle resident Tiny Vipers (Sub Pop) and additional production work by Simon Scott, XLR8R magazine gave it a 9/10 ranking and called it “an astounding range of visceral sonic possibilities, like
a hurricane passing over an ocean, gathering heat and force while simultaneously cooling the waters below.”
In 2011, The Sight Below released N-Plants remixes (for UK’s legendary Touch label), a 12” record on its own right and an extension of Biosphere’s critically-acclaimedN-Plants album – a work that explored the beauty and vulnerability of Japanese nuclear power facilities. In all, Irisarri has a string of remixes under his belt, commissioned by German minimal techno master Pantha Du Prince (Rough Trade), School of Seven Bells (Ghostly), cv313 (Echospace), The Naked And The Famous (Somewhat Damaged/Fiction), Fax (SEM), Stewart Walker (Persona), ISAN (Morr Music), and Glitterbug (False Industries), amongst many others.
Irisarri continues to travel frequently to perform live throughout the world. His live improvised sets have earned him praise from the music press and influential figures like Chain Reaction’s own Robert Henke and ex-Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flr. In this live context, he has collaborated twice with Austrian guitarist extraordinaire Fennesz, and toured extensively in North America with Pantha Du Prince and labelmate Lusine. Past highlights include concerts at Barcelona’s Sonar Festival (2009), Detroit’s Movement: DEMF (2009), Montreal’s MUTEK (2009), Berlin’s Berghain (2009). Krakow’s Unsound (2008), Rotterdam’s DEAF (2012), Nantes’ S.O.Y. (2008), London’s OpenFrame (2010) and Sevilla’s CICUS (2012). Aside from electronic music festivals, Irisarri has presented his works at multidisciplinary arts events, including Milan’s prestigious MITO SettembreMusica festival (2009) and Israel Festival (2010) in Jerusalem.
Back home in Seattle, Irisarri curates and produces advanced sound and interdisciplinary art events, thus helping create a hub for contemporary art proposals in the city. In 2011, he started the Substrata Festival, a three-day intimate event focusing on varying perspectives of scale though the use of sound, composition and visuals – an international showcase featuring accomplished artists working in the cutting edge where structural abstraction meets physical dynamics.
“Irisarri embodies the hybrid genre…the new kind of composer, who exists in an undifferentiated welter of pop, techno, and classical.” -Pitchfork (USA)