Electronic dance

Rival Consoles: Now Is Album Review

Ryan Lee West, aka Rival Consoles, has always looked for new ways to approach his synthesizers, whether translating sketches into scores on Joint or daisy-chain effects pedals to create the busy textures of To yell. The London producer’s expressive, restless tonality-seeking vibe blends easily with other mediums. Recently, his music has provided the ominous underpinnings of a contemporary dance production, the heart-pounding cues of a football documentary, and the buzzing accompaniment of model Bella Hadid having a dress sprayed directly on her body. With Now it’s, West created a soundtrack for his own pandemic-induced lockdown. Rightly so, it’s sometimes tedious and sometimes revealing, oscillating between comforting memories of the past and tentative intuitions of the future.

An inward-looking suite of tracks made in solitude isn’t exactly new territory for West, whose painterly, atmospheric production style produces deftly layered headphone music, despite a few propulsive dancefloor flourishes. And the resolutely contemplative inclination of Now it’s is nothing less than a routine among the growing canon of records mostly created in times of lockdown; West’s former teammate Nils Frahm recently extended the “stuck in the neighborhood” vibe into three laboriously pensive hours. Many tracks on Now it’s were designed as miniature scores for film clips or as deliberate counterpoints to the sinister tone of the 2021s Overflow, but they’re still indebted to West’s usual palette of stuttering synths, sparse beats and reverberant flourishes. While songs like “Echoes” and “World Turns” refine the sound of previous Rival Consoles albums, West is more compelling when he consciously subtracts familiar elements or introduces new variables.

West said only when registering Now it’s, he tried to be “confident enough to bring very subtle details to the fore and let them be.” Classical music has been one of his main muses, although he is more interested in channeling the delicate interplay and timbre of orchestral sound than in reproducing the dense structure of the symphonic bombshell. “Running” and “Vision of Self” embrace the principles of minimalism, with short synth patterns that resemble string arrangements, repeating and moving slowly as embellishments are introduced. Hearing these songs gradually transform and reveal themselves takes patience, but none of the tracks feel like they’re heading to an inevitable crescendo – here, the journey is the goal.

Now it’s sometimes gets bogged down in tunes that sap the deliberate momentum of the album, like the cold, hard-hitting “Frontiers.” Written as an ode to the dramatic Icelandic landscapes, it’s a track that one would expect to reflect the awe-inspiring landscapes of a nature documentary, but it settles for the energy of a fade-out. shot of generic video game music (probably an ice level). Just before its conclusion, Now it’s enters another lull as West leans into extremely apathetic trends in ambient music (“The Fade”) and plays with nu-jazz styles (“A Warning”).

The distorted melody of a muted piano provides resolution at the end of the album. The instrument is rarely the centerpiece of West’s music, which makes its use here all the more striking. The soft hiss of piano looping on “Quiet Home” conveys a sense of physical space and grounded reality, contrasting West’s typical range of electronic noise suspended in reverb. In interviews, West insists he rebelled against the idea of ​​writing a predictable, gloomy record in the age of the pandemic, but the sparse and purposefully down-to-earth final minutes of the album betray the melancholy that inhabits it. Fortunately, Now it’s don’t spend too much time wallowing. West is far more interested in the musical possibilities that a period of enforced inactivity may possibly reveal.

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