Ryan Lee West makes the kind of electronic dance music that doesn’t really feel like dance music. There’s movement, rhythm, and grooves easily fallen into, but the sonic landscape feels more contemplative. West builds worlds on his albums as Rival Consoles, and starting back on 2015s Sonne EP, West began a new way to create and compose electronic music.
Howl, Night Melody, and Persona were forward-thinking electronic albums. Records that felt organic, tactile, and had melodies you could almost touch in the air. On his newest Rival Consoles LP, the rich and meticulous Articulation, West plays with themes of shape and time. Music pieces as mathematical equations; songs that begin as postulations and end up with universal answers. Over six tracks Articulation pushes beats and rhythms as far as they can go, and then beyond to hint at bigger ideas.
According to Rival Consoles’ long time record label Erased Tapes:
During the writing process Ryan drew structures, shapes and patterns by hand to try and find new ways of thinking about music, giving himself a way to problem-solve away from the computer. The album title references a piece by the avant-garde contemporary composer Györgi Ligeti, though not for its music, but for the non-traditional graphic score that accompanied it.
The gorgeous “Vibrations on a String” opens the album. The brassy synths bring to mind some galactic horn section before the song is swept up in a rhythmic pulse. There’s a visceral quality to Rival Consoles’ work, but underneath the machine-like beat there’s true emotional heft. That’s the beauty of West’s work. “Forwardism” evokes bits of sparse techno with a cinematic flair all the while riding along a simple beat.
The album’s centerpiece is its title track. “Articulation” flows along on a simple rhythmic piece as the song builds with walls of electronic noise and bold melodic choices. The simplicity makes it easy to fall along to the track. It’s truly the DNA to which the rest of the album is built from. Tactile beats, wavering electronics, and bold melodic choices.
Nobody makes electronic music quite like Rival Consoles. West sets out to move you when he makes an album. His work is a kind of music you feel in your bones. Since 2007 Ryan Lee West has been on a trajectory that has led him to the brilliant Articulation. Coarse rhythms intertwine with gorgeous melodies and dreamy electronics to give you a sonic experience like no other.
7.8 out of 10