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Abul Mogard and Rafael Anton Irisarri, "Impossibly Distant, Impossibly Close"

Impossibly Distant, Impossibly CloseThis collaboration has its origins in a sold-out opening night show from Madrid's 2023 SoundSet series, as Irisarri and Guido Zen tore the roof off the Condeduque cultural center ambient-style with their encore duet. Naturally, that intense performance ("Waking Up Dizzy on a Bastion") is included here for the benefit of hapless chumps like me who were on the wrong continent that night, but the experience inspired the two artists to keep their partnership going afterwards (albeit remotely). That continued creative union eventually resulted in a longform studio piece ("Place of Forever") that is every bit as impressive as the Madrid performance, if not even better. Unsurprisingly, I have been a fan of both artists for quite some time and this album is one of those rare times in which an ostensible match made in heaven actually sounds as absolutely mesmerizing as I hoped it would. This album is pure blackened drone nirvana.

Black Knoll Editions

The album opens with the new studio piece ("Place of Forever"), which gradually fades in from silence as a subdued chord progression, a host of pops and crackles, and a bleary industrial drone that languorously pans and undulates through space. If this were a lesser album, I can guarantee that I would be frustrated that it took a full 7 or 8 minutes before the opening piece finally started to catch fire, but such a long, slow build up feels quite confident and earned here: if I know a piece will eventually blossom into something incredible, the slow, simmering ascension to that point becomes incredibly tantalizing rather than an unnecessary lull.

Articulating exactly why "Place of Forever" is so brilliant is a bit tricky, however, as it essentially just sounds like a classic Abul Mogard slow-burner: majestic and melancholy synth swells glacially intensifying over a hissing backdrop of industrial ambiance for 17 glorious minutes. In fact, I am having a hell of a time even identifying where Irisarri's hand comes into play at all, but whatever he was doing seems to have made quite an impact, as the textures are even more tactile and detailed than usual (aside from guitar, Irisarri is credited with "treatment" and Augustus Loop delay). At its best, the piece feels like time-lapse footage of curling and billowing smoke organically expanding into dark new tendrils. Unlike smoke, however, "Place of Forever" increasingly packs a seismic power that feels damn near elemental.

That would normally be an incredibly tough act to follow, but in this case it isn't even the main course (in theory), as the album's very raison d'etre is the Madrid performance. Given that Abul Mogard's aesthetic can be reasonably described as "subtly manipulating dials and sliders with superhuman patience until it sounds like the fucking earth is seismically shuddering and cracking," it makes perfect sense that "Waking Up Dizzy" shares a very similar dynamic trajectory with its predecessor: silence steadily intensifies into a howlingly visceral maelstrom of noise-gnawed synths and industrial textures and that slow, psychotropic journey extends for an entire side of vinyl.

That said, there are some significant differences between the two pieces, however, as Irisarri's bowed electric guitar is newly prominent and there is also a melodic hook of sorts. The album description's claim that Irisarri's "melting guitar patterns" recall the "most lysergic moments on Loveless" feels like a bit of a stretch, but certainly not a delusional one, as it merely feels closer to an immense-sounding remaster of Belong's classic October Language album instead. I do think Kevin Shields would be impressed with how skillfully Zen and Irisarri ravage and submerge their melodic hook with noise and distortion, however. If not, at least they managed to impress me and a roomful of enthusiastically clapping people in Spain, as the best moments of "Waking Up Dizzy" evoke an image of timeless ruined beauty that lies somewhere between streaking comet trails over a burning city and a violent sunset of blood reds and bruised purple: immense, elemental, melancholy, and achingly beautiful all at the same time. In fact, I am genuinely having a hard time thinking of any previous Abul Mogard or Irisarri releases that can match Impossibly Distant, Impossibly Close, as this album is about as perfect as heavy electronic drone music can get. Zen and Irisarri are two stone-cold killers at the height of their powers here.

Listen here.