Rafael Anton Irisarri made a strong statement about the condition of the world in 2017 with The Shameless Years. This year he continues to push boundaries and buttons on Midnight Colours. The shamelessness of global politics has continued to settle in, producing a thick malaise, captured here via sluggish tempos and lugubrious drone. When this was written last fall, the Doomsday Clock (predicting the likelihood of a human-caused global catastrophe) was set at two and a half minutes to midnight; as the cassette is released, the clock has moved forward another half-minute, already making one of the track titles out-of-date.
We can hear the internal mechanism of “The Clock” as the first track begins, tracing its seemingly inevitable progress. In “Falling Curtain”, the sense of an ending is even closer, marked by sonic depth pings. And then comes “Oh Paris, We Are Fucked” (a reference to the Paris Agreement), as bleak of a title as one will ever encounter. And why not? In Irisarri’s America, politicians continue to argue as children are shot; climate change is dismissed as “a theory”; the world waits for the president’s next tweet. Irisarri wants to be hopeful; but as the press release declares, the closest he gets is “morbid optimism”, a momentary phantasm. But there it is, in the pulse of the outdated track, its own title a condemnation. At this rate, we have less than two years.
What to do with this limited time? Irisarri chooses to write this “epiphany symphony”, using a word that means revelation or insight. Here we find a possible glimmer: the idea that perhaps we will wake up just before the end to realize that it’s not too late. The Doomsday Clock has in fact gone backward from time to time, the last time in 2010 (as global climate change laws were passed), the time before that in 1991 (as the United States and Soviet Union agreed to reduce nuclear arms). No such hope is found in Midnight Colours. But Irisarri is not merely fiddling while Rome burns; he’s trying to raise awareness, especially for those who think the Doomsday Clock is just a comic book. This may be a cry of despair, but it is a cry nonetheless. Perhaps these notes will provide a modicum of solace for those trying to make a difference. Or perhaps they will continue to degrade along with the cassette casings until they too are dust, fallen warnings never again heard. (Richard Allen)