Music

Rival Consoles Has Created One of the Most Vivid and Soul-stirring Electronic Albums of the Year with 'Persona'

Photo: Ozge Cone (Erased Tapes)

Persona is Rival Consoles' most engaging and diverse album to date as Ryan Lee West broadens his sonic palette. It's bold, it's diverse, it's brilliant.

Persona
Rival Consoles

Erased Tapes

13 April 2018

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.

9
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.