In life we all wear masks. Those masks change according to the person we want to present to the world. We might not realize it, but the characteristics that we portray will vary according to the situation we find ourselves in, whether it be at home with friends or with colleagues at work. However, how often do we question whether that outer mask or “persona” is representative of your real, inner you? It is this idea that provides the focus for South London based producer and DJ,
Rival Consoles‘ bold, atmospheric and emotionally evocative new album, Persona.
Persona explores the places in between. The grey areas. The void between calm and chaos, light and dark and fixed and broken all framed around this exploration of the inner and outer persona. While based on an intellectual and relatively highbrow concept, musically Persona is West’s most engaging and diverse album to date as he broadens his sonic palette to an extent that he hasn’t before. It’s bold, it’s diverse, it’s brilliant.
“Unfolding” opens with the crack of delayed snares that expand and ripple seemingly exponentially, as if stuck in perpetual motion. Before long the various components, merge to become a dizzying and immersive techno track. On the forbidding drone of “Persona”, a muted beat circled by the swoosh of low flying synths as West nimbly manipulates drum pads. It’s a track that seems to be constantly moving and reforming as if trying to adapt to different states constantly.
The ambient yet slightly threatening, “Memory Arc” finds West accentuating the tension by layering bowed double bass over the synthesizers, resulting in a striking, sonorous sound. Quickly contrasted by the urgent, rush of “Phantom Grip” which features galloping, drums that haul the track forward. After a brief pause, it takes a darker turn, becoming an edgy and claustrophobic club tune. By constantly pushing and pulling at the surface of the track, West creates something that thrillingly skirts around the edges of chaos.
The graceful ambiance of “Be Kind” serves as a direct contrast to “Phantom Grip”. It shares the same kind of abstract approach as Nils Frahm’s work as the sweeping, spontaneity of the track feels as if he is setting his unconsciousness free. As West explains, the recording of the track was very different to anything he had tried before.
“It’s a completely improvised recording in mono, that’s got no editing. I just improvised the melody, even the sequenced melody is on the sequencer, and I just pressed play. That is purely a live recording.I mean I wouldn’t be able to play exactly the same thing again because it was all improvised around that loop. I just liked it so much that, even though it has quite a few imperfections, it has a kind of integrity I think which fits the record.”
On “I Think So” West carefully orchestrates tension using elongated piano notes before the track builds to a euphoric high, something that West intended from the start.
“The beginning of that piece of music is based on the idea that I had recurring in my mind which is I want to create a kind of kaleidoscopic, sort of frenzy of color but with synths. This is what it establishes at the beginning and then obviously where to go from that. Immediately I thought of exploring lots of tension with piano, and again this has got the bowed double base in which really sort of grounds everything because a lot of the harmonies are tied down to a deep, raspy note, but that piece was definitely about exploring tension. Purely tension in the music.”
“Sun’s Abandon” juxtaposes airy synths and a graceful looped female voice with thundering drums and coarse, industrial beats. This contrast is representative of him as a person as he explains. “It’s weird that one because it’s also got really delicate finesse moments happening alongside really crude moments, so I think that piece of music probably sums up an aspect of my personality which is a kind of chaos.”
“Dreamer’s Wake” mixes handclap percussion, almost tribal rhythms and 70’s sci-fi synths with the ambient mood extending to the radical otherness of “Untravel”. Here, West creates a smooth, alien sonic terrain for the layered synths to sweep across, like the flow of water over bumps of a remote, dry riverbed. It stands as one of the most emotionally evocative tracks he has ever created. “Hidden” shifts from soft purring synths to something less contained and a little more ominous. Finally,”Fragment” invites the listener to reflect on the album’s core theme of how they convey their character to the outside world.
With a mix of analogue synths, warped acoustic instruments and an unmatched passion for effects pedals, West has produced easily one of the most vivid and soul-stirring electronic albums of the year. At times wildly kinetic and at times purposely languid it’s a constantly intriguing album that invites the listener to question the very idea of themselves that they present to the world.