Rafael Anton Irisarri treats every song as if it’s meant to contain all of Earth’s sounds. The prolific Seattle-based artist records shoegaze-infused techno as The Sight Below and ethereal dream pop with Benoit Pioulard as Orcas. He’s also collaborated with various electronic artists from different corners of the globe. But Irisarri tends to save his most cathartic compositions for work under his own name, creating droning ambient epics that feel infinite in texture. On his 2020 album Peripeteia, he weaves field recordings through an intricate mesh of keys, strings, and indefinable electronic effects that render the listener nearly numb. It’s both hypnotically dreamy and devastatingly dreary—seemingly the complete opposite to the bubbly bounce of a genre like reggae, which happens to be one of his biggest influences.
Says Irisarri of his East of the River Hudson playlist: “This mix harkens to sounds I heard in the Caribbean growing up, which shaped the way I make music today. I was born on the island of Puerto Rico—that U.S. territory ‘surrounded by water, big water, ocean water’—and grew up in the 1980s, splitting time between Florida, New York, and San Juan, amongst other places. Growing up, my access to recorded music was fairly limited—scarce resources is certainly not a friend of the arts and culture. Most of the records and tapes I listened to consisted of hand-me-downs from either older cousins or friends. I had an uncle who was very much into reggae and used to make me mixtapes from songs he’d record from the radio. 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 cassettes. Half of the time, I didn’t even know who the artists were, and only found out about them way after the fact. Thirty years later, I still enjoy hearing these songs; in some cases the production and aesthetic (heavy use of effects and sound processing, for example) have been incredibly influential in my own work. Hope you enjoy!”
Photo by Nikita Grushevskiy