Rafael Anton Irisarri - Daydreaming

George Bass 23/01/2007

Rating: 3/5

Endorphines aglow after the universal whoop accorded to Greg Haines' Slumber Tides, Norwegian imprint Miasmah are getting set to secure their grip on the clasically-orientated soundtrack demographic by landing Rafeal Anton Irisarri's third long-player. The Seattle maestro is dutifully doing his bit to help discredit the restaurant MCs that loot the chill-out genre, and If you like your ambient music to be more spooky than saccharine, then Daydreaming has got your name on it. Think Porn Sword Tobacco after a chemical peel.

In spite of the occasionally brittle piano plinkery, the seven pieces on the record seep into each other quite easily, flowing along like lunch hour moodswings. The keystrokes take the lead from the trailing machined squiggles, and Irisarri puts his synthetic flourishes to good use when he's not at the helm of his grand Yamaha. Usually, oceanic sound effects are the sure-fire way to make good on the gaps in your songwriting, but the ebb-tide sploshes that whisper in the corner-frame of A Thousand-Yard Stare serve only to amplify the tightly woven acoustics. Buoyish guitars ring out in a swirl of orchestrated calm, bubble bath warm and bleary as Post Office perspex. Even Private Payback would stand at ease for this one. If you're looking for a record to take to the footspa, though, it might be worth giving up there, as Irisarri is as much at home with the darkness as he is content to chill with the still. Lumberton is a shattered heartbreaker, coming across like Aphex Twin's Nanou 2 filmed in Super-8, and the appropriately-titled Wither is little more than a piped dirge that bleeds a spatter of piano droplets. It might not be a floorfiller in the conventional sense - pogoing trainers will have to make way for a job-lot of beanbags - but it's by no means a dud either.

There's not that much gristle on the album as a whole, and by and large the sounds are inventive enough to sustain their thirty-four minute lifespan. Like many instrumentalists, Irisarri is keen to show he's not just a one-trick pony, and even dispenses with the ebony and ivory altogether on Voigt-Kampf, instead using some forlorn Bontempi to produce an out-of-focus lament. This is the kind of music that car creatives plunder to score ads with. Just before his PR department get swamped in pleading phone calls, he signs off by taking the piano shivers from A Glimpse and burying them in a heap of stylus fuzz, then garnishing the lot with the tics in his central heating. It turns what would have been a straightforward coda into something a lot more interesting.

Thanks to the likes of The Orb, ambient fans have learnt not to judge a book by its cover, and hopefully newcomers to the genre will heed the same advice. Don't be put off by Daydreaming's rather unimaginative title; Miasmah seem to know what they're playing at with this one. Coming so soon after Slumber Tides, some might say the label have effectively double-dropped and now face the threat of a monster comedown. But if this release is the next point on the projected trend of their output then there's a chance they could soon be hot on the heels of Toytronic and City Centre Offices for the mantle of top quality control. Like the shy brainiac in the maths class, their man Rafael might skulk some of his best intentions away, but when he's in the mood then he's as much cop in the music room as his ninja turtle namesake is in the dojo.