The Sight Below: It All Falls Apart
Ghostly International

It All Falls Apart is undoubtedly the most fully-realized recording yet by Seattle, Washington-based Rafael Anton Irisarri under the moniker The Sight Below, and makes good on the promise shown by 2008's Glider full-length and subsequent EPs No Place For Us and Murmur. What gives It All Falls Apart added strength is that Irisarri extends the range associated with the project, such that while the new recording includes samplings of the signature The Sight Below sound—shoegaze guitars undergirded by insistent 4/4 kick drum patterns—it also features grandiose ambient guitar settings and even a vocal piece.

Eschewing beats altogether, “Shimmer” opens the fifty-minute album with an elegiac overture of lush and symphonic design wherein mournful tones and washes establish a mood of beautiful sadness (aficionados of the genre might be reminded of Tim Hecker's style). Thick fields of reverb-laden guitars in the lulling ambient-styled setting, “Fervent,” billow with even more grandiose purpose, and in doing so a mood of peaceful reverie results. More epic still is the title track, which manages to suggest limitless expanses despite being a mere five minutes in length. Shortly into “Through the Gaps in the Land,” the familiar thump of the bass drum emerges, its animated pulse in clear contrast to the slow-motion unfurl of guitar tendrils that stretch out overtop. The tremolo twang of an Old West guitar gives the rain-soaked Joy Division cover of “New Dawn Fades” a lone plains drifter feel, and Jesy Fortino's singing only intensifies the song's resigned and desperate feel. “Stagger” doesn't necessarily, though it does unfold at a more leisurely pace befitting a thirteen-minute running time. Here, as they do elsewhere, streams of gossamer guitar lines drift like ghostly forms as a laid-back rhythm track unspools underneath.

The Sight Below's material remains six-string-based, of course (to create his trademark swirl, Irisarri plays E-bow, slide, and guitars through loopers, 12-bit reverb boxes, and delay units) , but the overall sound is warm and inviting with Irisarri opting for celestial grandeur rather than earth-bound abrasiveness. Some credit for the strong impression the album makes must go to Simon Scott (ex-Slowdive), who plays guitar and co-wrote a couple of tracks, and Fortino. The pronounced ambient dimension of the album makes it a perfect complement to Simon Scott's recent Navigare, itself a remarkably accomplished collection of guitar-based soundscaping.

March 2010