El Ferrocarril Desvaneciente is Rafael Anton Irisarri’s third release on Mexican label Umor Rex. Available in a cassette edition (limited to 200 copies), and on digital formats, the four ambient loops are an outlet and a cleansing after recent discouragements. Intended to be listened to in one sitting, forming one long repetition, Irisarri’s new album is a cyclical, never-ending story of calm and restoration, coming in well past its ETA.
The ambient melodies are pushed down in the mix, its night-train-music rolling sedately through the dusty land, passing underneath a sea of bright stars that poke holes through deadened twilight.
The format of tape is well-suited to this kind of buried ambient. Its light hiss coats the gently evolving melody, which itself is evocative of a long voyage. Ambient music can take you on a night-drive, even when you’re not in motion. Like the music of Secret Pyramid, Irisarri’s spectral, phantom-ship melodies are submerged in layers of wonderfully imperfect hiss and ambient delicacy, lying there in the depths of its processed murk, with only a glimmer of infrequent light protruding from the tip of an out-of-focus drone. Rumbles in the lower register are effective at making the music shudder amid its slow-motion pulses of sonar. It swims in its phantasmagorical ambient, dripping with off-shades of purple or deeper still, and the loops are dressed in a lighter gauze of hiss as they continue in their gymnastics, doing a delayed 360 at an indeterminate point.
Full of subtle tension and understated euphoria upon release, the ambient breathes out a long, deep breath, like a meditation tape in its pursuit of calmer events. At no point does it become boring or sterile, as even though a loop is, by definition, recycled in some way, the music is in constant progression, albeit a slow, evolving one, swimming in its calming, sonorous sounds; the wheels of the loop go round and round, all night long, revolving in gentle, swirling circles, a loop of both infinite movement and constricted repetition. ‘Stuck in a loop’ is a frequent saying, but an ambient loop can enjoy a lot of space, can actually be a freeing sound, bringing cathartic release as its sound burns through the tape. The bass adds some bumps to the mix on what is an otherwise smooth ride.
The music remembers an overnight train journey through a Spanish landscape, a trip Irisarri took years ago, and the deep ambient is like a closed lid during sleep, a somnolent landscape, as blind as sight through the murk of sleep. The sweeping ambient may also turn a shade romantic, such as on ‘La Chica de Valladolid’, where the perfumed ambient tones rise up like a warm draught, covering the atmosphere in the way that an intoxication will kindly obliterate the mind and its associated brainwaves, scrambling its sonar with its stealth. The music enters quietly, like a ghost, and only departs when it’s time to leave, on its own terms, with Irisarri an onlooker rather than an active participator. That’s one of the reasons as to the music’s effectiveness: minimal involvement, and thus minimal intrusion. You can always expect quality music from Irisarri, and El Ferrocarril Desvaneciente delivers that and more.