reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Ryan Lee West’s new album under the pseudonym of Rival Consoles was written for a dance production, Overflow, choreographed by Alexander Whitley. The aim of Whitley’s work was to explore ‘themes of the human and emotional consequences of life surrounded by data’…echoing ‘the concept of social media, advertising, marketing companies and political factions exploiting our data to gain wealth, political advantage and sow division.’
West noted the potential of the combined artform to ‘create an otherworldly space the listener/viewer can escape to and explore’. A big feature of the finished work is a light sculpture created by Children of the Light, with a long LED bar that moves around the stage.
What’s the music like?
Rival Consoles responds to his theme with music of real presence and tension. Right from the off there is an air of foreboding to Monster, with its brooding colours and slightly irregular pitches and rhythms stretched over ten minutes.
I Like ratchets this up still further. Mashing up a short vocal sample, which is effective but also infuriating as the speaker never quite gets to the point. The Cloud Oracle also treats speech intriguingly, with a held note that has talking heads spun around it.
Flow State is a thrilling ride at a high tempo, with crossrhythms generated by the keyboards that are redolent of Steve Reich and which have plenty of opportunity for development over twelve minutes, the percussion hammering more incessantly on the door.
All these examples are an indication of the invention Ryan Lee West gets in response to Whitley’s brief, resulting in music that pushes him further technically and creatively from the previous album Articulation.
Does it all work?
It does. Overflow is a compelling piece of work, a musical equivalent to the striking colours that adorn its cover.
Is it recommended?
Yes. There was a general feeling that Articulation did not quite meet Ryan Lee West’s full potential as Rival Consoles, effective though it was. There can be no such doubt here.