Interview: The Sight Below
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When we were thinking about which artists to contact for futuresequence 'The Sight Below' was high up on the list. His recent album 'It All Falls Apart' is a stunning work of minimal/ambient/drone, and a firm favourite.
From his site: Rafael Anton Irisarri is an American composer, multi-instrumentalist, curator and mixed media artist based in Seattle, Washington. He is predominantly associated with post-minimalist, drone and ambient music and has been exploring textural electronics for over half a decade.
How do you go about putting together a track, what sort of setup do you use?
I have a really simple setup in my studio – laptops, 16 channel analog mixer, several guitars, amps and a few effect boxes. For the most part, I start off by bowing some guitar parts and just take it from there, like reprocess on Max or thru Ableton…other times; however, I may start with a particular sound in my head and try to replicate it using my limited gear/setup. I do have a pair of amazing speakers, which def helps make the process easier.
Do you have any concepts or themes in mind when you start an album, did you approach 'It All Falls Apart' differently to 'Glider'?
Sometimes I do. For instance, “It All Falls Apart” deals the anxiety of trying to understand our own mortality and how we cope with loss. It is perhaps a logical progression from the ‘hopeful gloom’ that became the signature sound of Glider and particularly for me, a very personal subject. The album writing process really served almost as a cleansing procedure for my brain (as cliché or corny it may sound – it’s what it is).
Does living in Seattle provide any particular inspiration for you?
Yes, absolutely. It is almost impossible for me to separate the Pacific Northwest’s aesthetic and imagery from the music that I make. I’m profoundly inspired by this region, not only from the obvious “rainy, gloomy skies” stereotype, but also folk & pop-culture references (think of David Lynch and his television-defining narrative Twin Peaks).
Can you tell us about the cover art for each of your releases, who were the artists, what kind of brief were they given and do you have any say in the final piece?
All artwork on The Sight Below releases has been designed by Michael Cina, who’s a very well-known and talented graphic designer/typographer. On the latest album, I gave Michael a collection of photographs that my friend Julie Calbert had taken and I thought went well with the music. She’s an amazing and gifted photographer from Belgium and I’m really grateful she let me used her images on the album.
How did you come to work with Tiny Vipers, and who else would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I’ve been friends with Jesy for a few years now (we met a Biosphere show here in town). She's very into all the left-field electronic music (Touch, Raster-Noton, Miasmah, Room40, Kranky, Type, etc.). I'm a big fan of her music (that Life on Earth album is just amazing) and vice versa, so we had talked for the longest time about doing something. At one point, we were both hanging out at a coffee shop and "New Dawn Fades" was playing in the background. She mentioned how it was her favorite Joy Division track, so I said, hey, maybe we should do a version and finally collaborate together. We had to adapt it to her vocal range and then made some changes representative of my own production values and guitar playing style. I also asked her to sing it as if it was one of her own tracks, to just make it as personal as possible. I'm really happy with how it turned out; I think Jesy's vocals are quite haunting, but still maintaining the spirit and feeling of Ian's version.
In the future, I’d like to collaborate again with Fennesz (I had the privilege of doing video and playing guitar with him in Italy this July). I would also love to work with Pantha Du Prince, whom I’ve been enjoying his music quite a lot for a few years now. In terms of singers, I’d love to work with the singer from HTRK – that” Marry Me Tonight” album has been on heavy rotation in my mp3 player this past couple of months. And of course, I’m looking forward to keep working with Jesy & Simon Scott in the near future.
What are you listening to at the moment, which albums released this year do you rate?
I’ve been listening a to the new Pantha Du Prince (Black Noise) album. I also recently got a copy of the new Echospace (I did a remix for their new CV313 12”), and like I mentioned before, been enjoying music by some of my peers, like Ben Frost, Svarte Greiner, Novi_Sad, Simon Scott, and so on…
What's next for you after finishing your tour?
I’m going to Australia in August for a short tour in the east coast. Australian label Room40 is releasing my second full-length under my own name, titled “The North Bend, and hence doing some shows. In September I’m doing a West Coast tour with Pantha Du Prince, right before we play Decibel Festival (which I help organize). I’m planning to have a new tour cassette EP release for this set of shows with PDP and Ghostly will release it digitally, so that’s something to look forward. Afterward, I’m going back to Europe for a set of dates in the autumn and winter with Lawrence English, Grouper, John Chandler, and other labelmates on Room40, as part of their 10-year anniversary tour.