08 Dec 2021 - Daniel F.
Experimental Electronic | Erased Tapes | Release date: 03 Dec 2021
After much deliberation, I’ve decided that the best way to start this review is with a confession. Three listens into the latest Rival Consoles album, I am still not sure how I should be listening to it. Before you sharpen your pitchforks, understand that far from being a damning admission, this is a result of the incredible depth on display throughout a record that demands an astute and willing ear. Consider this piece a rhetorical insight into one the year’s more astounding electronic releases; an ebbing, flowing hors d’oeuvre that refuses to travel at anything other than it’s own pace. It’s a lock that perhaps doesn’t need to be unpicked, we simply owe it to stand back and admire.
London-based Ryan Lee West has been making music under the Rival Consoles moniker for quite some time now on a clear trajectory pointed towards ever more conceptual albums. Perhaps 2015’s Howl was the first true example of this, but the recently released Overflow is his most ambitious offering to date. Comfortably over an hour in length, it spans a plethora of musical topographies which feel intricately layered and deftly considered.
Simultaneously it manages to feel like West’s most accomplished work while also being the most sparse and devoid of action. At times it could be the score to an unwritten movie as it dances with a cinematic flair that feels effortless and natural - often ambient and restrained, yet with ample flair when called upon. Rival Consoles’ sound has always felt organic and this venture is no different. Music like this could be assigned a pulse, a beating heart given life by the meticulous attention to detail that West purveys.
Sonically, it is delectable. At times it is almost horrifying, brewing music that could be lifted from the soundtrack of a psychological thriller, and yet throughout other moments it’s gentle and serene. Tracks like ”Tension In The Clouds” manage to mix minimal synth with a backbone of aching drone, as it skims along tastefully towards ”Noise Call And Response II” which takes a more experimental and eclectic approach. We are either drawn in by ambience or left open-mouthed by electronic splendour. In either configuration this album clings to us like an anemone, refusing to let go and remaining ever present. It’s soul seeps through every crack and immerses us in a liquified feeling.
This is testament to immaculate songwriting and West’s unbridled desire to maximise the impact caused by his music. Perhaps now heightened by experience, he has crafted an album of the highest order, as musically accomplished as it is full of heart. If you are expecting an easy ride then it may be best to keep your distance. Overflow is demanding, requiring patience and a willingness for the eclectic but for those prepared to take the chance, it is one of 2021’s most rewarding listens. Whether you prefer the more detailed aspects of tracks like ”Pulses Of Information” or more drawn out passages like ”Scanning”, the overall experience is one of awe and wonder. This is an album that I know I will be revisiting for years to come.