Switched On – Rival Consoles: Monster (Erased Tapes)

Rival Consoles – aka Ryan Lee West – is back with a new album, scheduled for release in December. Described as ‘a resonant and explorative soundscape of original music’, it was written for Alexander Whitley’s contemporary dance production Overflow.

The first calling card we have from the record is a substantial one, the ten-minute Monster. West describes Monster as having “a kind of drunken madness to it, highly repetitive to mirror the repetitive nature of how we as humans engage with technology such as social media. It’s sometimes edging towards chaos but yet always returning back to the same starting point, but eventually giving way to exhaustion. I wanted to create a bold opening piece for Overflow.”

It certainly has an ominous presence from the outset, West using micro-adjustments to a single pitch as a slow beat gradually takes hold. The atmosphere is tense, like an approaching encounter in a Ridley Scott film:

Overflow will be released by Erased Tapes on 3 December 2021. For more information click here:

Switched On – Rival Consoles: Articulation (Erased Tapes)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Articulation is the fifth album for Erased Tapes from Rival Consoles, the name under which Ryan Lee West releases much of his music. The inspiration for this album is György Ligeti, not in an explicitly musical sense but in the art of making music from a graphic score. The idea behind this was to get away from the computer and start with patterns, shapes or structures drawn by hand. This would generate musical solutions. Two of the initial scores sketched out by West are shown below:


Articulation


Sudden Awareness of Now

What’s the music like?

Articulation has less obviously musical content than its predecessor Persona. There are admirable and often striking sounds and textures achieved through this music, which often creates powerful pictures and atmospherics. Yet while the chord progressions are strong there is not so much of a melodic strength in depth.

Opening track Vibrations On A String is a study in tonal colour, moving between distortion and a more consonant sound until a forthright beat kicks in. There is a tension between the energy of the beats and the slow four-note progression of the string itself.

Forwardism and Articulation follow similar paths, with relatively minimal means. The former strips back to beats and jagged atmospherics, while the latter takes a more active broken beat and spins threads around it. Melodica is much warmer, the beats retreating and the music panning out a little, the approach allowing for more improvisation, while Still Here resembles an extended peal of mid-range electronic bells, delivered without beats.

Most impressive and enduring is the final Sudden Awareness of Now. With a dazzling array of textures applied to its central riff it crackles with energy, sending out trance-like pulses but surrounded by a warm haze of sound.

Does it all work?

Yes, in terms of conforming to West’s blueprint, but the shift away from computer towards drawings has not necessarily given the music more emotion. If anything, it sounds more processed, a collection of sounds rather than melodies. It is very effective for mood-setting and creating colours but does not always leave a lasting impression.

Is it recommended?

Articulation is an easy recommendation for Rival Consoles devotees, but it does not yet come across as his strongest album. Time will tell if it has the same staying power as other Erased Tapes releases, but for now Articulation is easier to admire than an album with which to form a strong emotional bond.

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