The grainy monochrome image that adorns Solastalgia is the perfect evocation of the music within. Viewed as a someone who grew up with, and still regularly enmeshes themselves in the grey rock, wet heather and hanging mists of the Scottish wilderness, it’s easy to see the image with a knowing smile. The miserable cold dampness, an assumed griminess is actually a veil to spectacular magic. A landscape of forms older than human history, inhabited by hardy lifeforms grabbing their chance in a savage and exposed slither of opportunity. But the environment is actually, perhaps with the right clothing and mindset, a massively visceral spectacularly sifting stew, measured in cliff faces, clouds, weather fronts, dawns and dusks. And it’s ALL under threat.
Following this trajectory, Solastalgia is the condition of existential dread brought on by concerns around environmental change, both naturally and of course – human instigated. Despite the word being new to me, is it something all of us should be feeling?
Rafael Anton Irisarri has been consistent in the musical forms he creates over his growing discography, carving out vast droning monoliths of sound. His music is always anchored in a concept. His previous, hugely engrossing work The Shameless Years drew on the global socio-political climate using a similar pulverisation of sound. The vocabulary is consistent, and at low volumes may feel quite ambient but begs to be played as loud as you dare. Doing so, opens up amazingly, revealing huge squalls of sound that feel like the sweet spot between orchestral swellings and shoegazing feedback.
Decay Waves is just that, a huge rubble strewn monster that tight ropes between sea and radio waves. Completely featureless music where its superbly grainy surface texture pulls you deep into its folds. The weird antigravity element reveals an arching choir-like formation near its conclusion.
Coastal Trapped Disturbance offers another entrance between the layers of scree. A deep-sea melody slowly rising up between a plateau of whirring rotor blades. Chrysalism feels like a planet made from the gas leak from Godley & Cremes I’m Not In Love. The music continually forms mirages of Wolfgang Voigt like beats, but nothing ever solidifies out of the mist.
What’s interesting is that despite the overall monochromatic vibe and themes, Solastagias character and track titles belies an apparently sombre air. Visible Through The Shroud perhaps could be needlessly bleak but it’s hopelessly beautiful. Huge warm smudges blossoming out like an orchestra in space caught in a huge lens flaring camera pan. Kiss All The Pretty Skies Goodbye suggests flight over a huge expanse of water towards a setting sun. There are dustings of hope, sea birds and sparkles of light, the rain is easing off, the mist is clearing…
Pitch Black sits ominously as the closer but far from a nihilistic inky void end game. It begins as a magnification of a teeming night forest. The fuzzing undercurrent here is the comforting chirpings of a million cicadas. Slowly a scything watery anthem floods the scene as acid is continually splashed over monumental grinding loops.
Ultimately Solastalgia has a strange universal quality to its time warping brief 40-minute footprint. Conceptually, the album may well have roots in the untold damage we as a species have done to our planet. But the forms that each of these 6 tracks take may well appear static until you realise, they are slowly ever modifying ecosystems. Just like the ice cap melting, the Himalayas rising, and the toxic molecules floating out of the chimney, our static world is just an ever-changing refresh of the past.
Whilst Solastagia isn’t going to save the world, it’s a completely worthwhile signpost to all these concerns and a tiny speck of comfort. As a soundtrack to the view out of your window, or even better your walk through the park, the woods or even the hills, it’s superbly beautiful. Plug in and get out there while you can…
Solastagia is released on June 21 by Room40 and is available to pre-order here