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Rival Consoles - Articulation

Review

Articulation by Rival Consoles

Anthemic return for Ryan Lee West with his seventh album as Rival Consoles

Erased Tapes stalwart Ryan Lee West has just released his seventh album as Rival Consoles and while it's short and sweet at just 34mins, it doesn't lack stature. Spanning six tumultuous tracks, emotions run riot as soon as the drums kick in on opener Vibrations on a String. Like a single movement, tracks flow into each other, with pace, rhythm and melody interwoven perfectly.

Familiar Rival Consoles traits remain, like the pulsating synths on Forwardism and the balanced contrast between urgent and Ambient. Importantly, melody remains integral. Adding further impact, West reveals a fascinating backstory to his working process. Like a fine artist preparing a composition for canvas, he undertook a series of investigative drawings, exploring mathematical and compositional structures, to initiate the writing process.

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.

Ryan Lee West

West's approach to using pencil and paper was to sketch out how he wanted the music to sound based on shapes and patterns:

Rival Consoles sketch for Articulation
Sketch for Articulation

Drawing shapes to write music may sound unorthodox but it's the norm for many classical composers. Here's a sketch from Mozart:

Mozart sketch
Music sketch by Mozart (via Everyone’s Doing It, No One Talks About It: Sketching Music)

And here's one by György Ligeti, the composer who inspired the album's title:

Gyorgy Ligeti sketch
György Ligeti sketch for Atmosphères (1961) (image via Paul Sacher Stiftung)

Graphic designer Rainer Wehinger created a visual listening score based on Ligeti's composition Artikulation:

From musical sketches to interpreting music graphically to images hidden within songs (also check Aphex Twin's Equation spectrogram) the idea that a visual impetus should inform an audial experience makes perfect sense. West used his sketches to picture the structure of his music before powering up the computer; working out where the middle eight should come in or at what stage a track should hold tension or climax. And to an extent, looking at his diagrams, he's managed to achieve that.

If you only listen to one track

Sudden Awareness of Now

RIYL

Ben Lukas Boysen, Jon Hopkins, Kiasmos

Label

Erased Tapes

Artist website

Rival Consoles

Release date

31 Jul 2020

Tracklist

  1. Vibrations on a String
  2. Forwardism
  3. Melodica
  4. Articulation
  5. Still Here
  6. Sudden Awareness of Now
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