Review: The Bold, Labyrinthine Equilibrium Of Rival Consoles’ ‘Articulation’

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Rival Consoles | Articulation | Erased Tapes

Release Date: July 31, 2020

In his newest album ‘Articulation’, UK producer and musician Ryan Lee West, known under his musical alias Rival Consoles, took a completely different approach as to what one would expect when it came to composing the six tracks on the album.

As opposed to embracing a black and white conception of his works, the artist, known for his prowess in experimentation and skills within the electronic music world: instead focused on mapping out each track with imagery he sketched himself – his vision as to what he expected the tracks to “look” like.

The album title ‘Articulation’ references avant-garde contemporary composer Györgi Ligeti, regarding the non-traditional composition techniques the artist used.

I find electronic music is often battling to say something with integrity because technology and production can easily get in the way. I think the goal of a lot of electronic composers is to find a balance between the vision of the idea and the power of possibilities on the computer. With a pen and paper sketch you can compose and rethink ideas without technology getting in the way, so for me it acts as a very helpful tool to refresh the process.

…The title track is about articulation and playfulness with shape and time. Its structure is very machine-like, but I was really interested in how melody and sense of story could develop out of this, and it became an exploration of mathematical structures — patterns and shapes having a conversation. I love that something on paper can appear rigid and calculated, but then take on new meaning based on the context that surrounds it, or how it changes over time.

Breaking down each track on the album, West shared his sketches with self-titled which you can read about and see here. It may seem slightly foreign to those who do not create music (but are exceptionally interesting nonetheless) – but for experienced musicians, and even visual artists, comparing the tracks to his sketches is more than fascinating. It’s almost reminiscent of synesthesia, a condition where one’s senses can function differently – for example, some people are able to taste colours, or hear numbers. Regarding ‘Articulation‘, one can hear his vision in the sketches he provides, and furthermore see the visual artworks when listening to tracks. Despite the perceived obscurity of the concept itself, it manages to make perfect sense.

Articulation’ as a whole is admirably balanced; the way in which West structured the tracks, depending on their particular tone, allows for it to be absorbed in a manner that doesn’t feel overwhelming or disjointed. As an example, the opening track ‘Vibrations On A String’ and the closer ‘Sudden Awareness Of Now’ come across as “lighter” and more upbeat than the compellingly, intricate density of tracks such as ‘Forwardism’ and ‘Articulation’.

All four of these tracks contain the spellbinding elements of the almost labyrinthine weave of the plethora of textures West employs, along with the experimental use of tempo; however a slightly more buoyant minimalism and linear structure sings within the opener and closer, whereas the riveting complexity of ‘Fowardism’ and ‘Articulation’ come across as a maelstrom of extraterrestrial soundscapes.

When it comes to “breathers” between tracks, we most notably see this in ‘Melodica’ and ‘Still Here’. ‘Melodica’ drizzles with idyllic, ambient bliss in it’s meditative tone and ‘Still Here’ shimmers with a quiet nostalgia, there’s a tinge of sadness slumbering in the track yet one can’t help but notice the sunlit feel of hope glittering within the album as a whole.

Stream & Purchase Articulation by Rival Consoles
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Rating: 8.5 / 10

Feature Image: Rival Consoles by Özge Cöne

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