Review Summary: Shapes and colours.
On Rival Consoles’ previous album Persona
, English musician Ryan Lee West imagined his own score for Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 arthouse classic. His deep, immersive techno ably reflected the film’s themes: forlorn analog synthesizers and glitching percussion wandered in the mix, inter-meshing in sensual but occasionally violent ways then floating out into delirious entropy. For his new full-length Articulation
, West composed the music based on a sketches of colours and shapes, which ultimately doesn’t feel that far off from Persona
’s influence; the characters of that film felt like they were blurring at the edges themselves, mired in eerie emotional hues. While the album is conceptually scaled back, it’s a strong continuation and refinement of Rival Consoles’ chilly, distant, and yet cathartic IDM.
West completely eschews acoustic instrumentation on this album, but the bellowing synths, uneasy drum machine loops, and omnipresent glitch sounds feel anything but rigid and mechanical. A hurtling sense of momentum propels the best songs here, recalling the energy of live performance. The glimmering title track is one of his most engaging songs yet, building frenetically over six minutes. The frosty synths that introduce “Forwardism” feel stringed to the kick drum, but ascend ominously through the increasingly chaotic mix as their tethers are slowly cut. Closing track “Sudden Awareness of Now” reaffirms that even without lofty concepts, Rival Consoles can work small wonders: with its agitated synth stabs over swirling gusts of percussion and drones, it feels like intense memories swarming chaotically around you, and as the song dies down you feel like you’ve been stripped apart and reassembled. Rather than being beholden to repeating phrases or drum patterns, West glides confidently through moods and sections, the album feeling simultaneously whimsical and thoroughly considered.
fumbles slightly in its sparser songs, their vaporous arrangements coming up short against the more energetic material. “Melodica” drifts by without leaving much impression, featuring a digitized koto drowned out in reverb over rolling pads that just sort of ends, while the beatless “Still Here” has one of West’s sweetest melodies that recalls crowd pleasing chill-out electronica like Tycho: a pleasant song, but it flirts uncomfortably with that act’s propensity for blandness. These languid tracks don’t necessarily feel earned on this otherwise taut half-hour record; they work much better when considering Articulation
as a whole, continuous piece, which is hardly a stretch given the album’s wonderfully fluid sequencing.
doesn’t quite reach the skyscraping highs of Persona
, but that isn’t too surprising: the compositions on that album were hinged to a compelling concept that explored identity, confusion, eroticism and existential anguish, aspects not particularly inherent in abstract shapes on a page. Still, Articulation
is another immersive release on which West slightly expands his humanistic electronic music. It’s a captivating record that will continue to unfurl the more you put yourself into it.