It didn't take long for friends and fans to rally around the musician and his wife, most notably raising over $18K to help rebuild his esteemed Black Knoll Studio; by January of this year, Irisarri began releasing new music. Will Her Heart Burn Anymore found its creator in a purge of emotion—or, perhaps more accurately, aggression—that hinged on heavily distorted textures and shadows. You could call it a kind of rebirth for Irisarri's music, and once Burn came to its elegiac close the metamorphosis felt complete.
These are the circumstances from which A Fragile Geography emerges. It's all palpable in the six pieces—Irisarri's solo work has always been deeply, tenderly poignant, but he finds more towering peaks and yawning chasms here. We're lead gently in with "Displacement," an exhausted sigh of soft-glowing harmony and distant static, before "Reprisal" starts its slow swell into tangled distortion and smothered sub frequencies. Guitars peek out at the end of "Reprisal" after nine minutes of dense drone, and their lightness feels like fresh air just before total suffocation.
This might be the darkest Irisarri album yet, but he's careful to hang a lamp in the corners. "Empire Systems" is the biggest and brightest flame. The stratospheric centerpiece is like a weighty M83 interlude, where the themes are personal doubts and existential dread instead of teenage fantasy and poetic dream-speak. For a few minutes, at the top of "Empire Systems," Irisarri lets those troubles disappear. "Hiatus" gazes into the abyss, and short as it is, it feels like the dying black heart that feeds A Fragile Geography. There's listlessness and depression in its four simple chords, uncertainty and fear in its wavering top notes, ambivalence in the thick encompassing fog—the simplest expression of Geography's palette.
"Secretly Wishing For Rain" closes the 40-minute record with processed piano, supernatural ambience and cello. It's a downcast ending, and seems to reveal a truth about Irisarri: these problems—personal or external—are necessary to his creative process. He seeks out turmoil and obstacles (i.e. the Salton Sea's tragic story), unless they happen to find him first, and from this stress he creates.