The Salton Sea was never meant to exist. It developed by accident in 1905 as waters were diverted from the California River, submerging the town of Salton. In the ensuing decades it became a resort area, until fertilizer runoff and increased salinity began to kill the fish, and consequently, the tourist appeal. Today the sea stands as a symbol of hubris to some and of opportunity to others, who continue to call for its restoration.
Rafael Anton Irisarri‘s elegy for the sea is more salty than wet; it sounds at times like a dustbowl ready to catch fire. Opener “Fear and Trembling”, whose title references Kierkegaard and by extension the apostle Paul, scrapes like a shovel head against drywall. The philosophical extension may be that the souls of the greedy have grown arid. Developers created what they did not want; once they wanted it, they killed it; and once it was dead, they wanted it again. One would be hard-pressed to find a more fitting image of environmental apathy. The vinyl crackle that runs throughout the album is a metaphor for their avarice: it’s the sound of broken music, but with the music removed.
Irisarri adds ambient tones and washes to the crackle, but inverts the volume so that the rusted and decayed remain at the fore. His work is the opposite of a typical day at the beach. Instead, it’s a walk along a deserted shore, a look at the bloated eyes of fish carcasses, the skeletons of seagulls. Those reading this description might ask, “Why would I want this?” The answer: unlike the actual Salton Sea, The Unintentional Sea is a work of beautiful weight that tugs at the soul, operating as a salvage expedition. We know better, says Irisarri without words. We’ll rescue what we can. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 10 December