Music From the Shameless Years: Rafael Anton Irisarri

Has there ever been an era in recent history that so perfectly warrants the title of The Shameless Years then the one we are currently living? Is it not usually only in retrospect that we are able to make such a claim, in that we must first crawl out of the shit before we can walk away from it, then slowly turn around and acknowledge that we were once back there, in the shit?

One likely needn’t look further than the collective inaction on climate change, “alternative facts,” and the current socio-political state of America to think maybe these truly are the shameless years, and one doesn’t need a retrospective view to see how bad it is—I mean, this level of racism, now? in 2017? This harmful thinking should be extinct by now, and yet, it remains at the centre of the conversation (substitute shameless with regressive and tell me they’re not the same thing).


Strip away the title and one would be hard-pressed to find anything political about Rafael Anton Irisarri’s new album. There is, however, an underlying urgency that’s hard to ignore. Few albums that bubble up from the bottomless spring of contemporary ambient take the bold steps that The Shameless Years does. So rarely do they go as big and burn as bright without suffocating their audience first.

The immediacy of the opening half might just be that wake up call we all need, a reminder to not sit idly, but to peel the crust from our eyes and dig ourselves out of the shit. The urgency peaks at “RN Negative,” where it’s as though Irisarri fuses the greatest parts of Christian Fennesz and Lawrence English into a six minute sensory rapture. Listening to “RN Negative” for the first time I was transported, an experience that left me momentarily stranded on an alternate plane of consciousness. When music gifts this experience one should savour it and be thankful. Sadly, not a whole lot this year has taken me quite there.

And although it’s exercised with caution, the album’s cinematic grandeur does occasionally float to the level of Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed (note to self: check out new Mogwai record). However, its final two statements smooth out the emotional peaks as Irisarri teams with Siavash Amini to soundtrack the pensive part of your evening. The album ends on its longest track, “The Faithless,” whose subtle complexity would likely be lost on the less astute listener. From this vantage point “The Faithless” can be regarded as a microcosm for The Shameless Years: a meticulously crafted album that’s made to look all-too easy. Great record. Not to be overlooked.


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