Rival Consoles (Ryan Lee West) is no stranger to the electronic scene. His early experiments voyaged into IDM and glitch-based beats; half rhythmic gymnastics and half musical mathematics. Paradoxically, Odyssey is the start of an adventure that has already progressed a fair distance. His musical journey is already well on its way. Rival Consoles stands out from the crowd because West includes an all-important human touch, something that is sadly lacking in the electronic minefield. Because of this, it evolves into emotional electronic music.
This five-track EP, released on Erased Tapes, is a beat-oriented beast. It never sounds out of place, but it’s fair to say that this is the flipped side of the electronic coin, slotting into new territory not normally found on the label. You may see some lighter electronic usage sprinkled around subtle loops or the occasional beat. Electronic music isn’t just about the beat, though. Only now has the label delved deeper into the electronic circuitry that continues to light up the music. If anything, Erased Tapes’ acquisition of Rival Consoles seems predestined. It fits in nicely, despite the 4/4 rhythm pounding purposefully away.
In this day and age, the process of beat-making is considerably easier than it once was. The quality can not only dip, but take a serious nose dive as a result of its prominence. West has been around long enough to have built up the necessary experience, the fine-tuning and the skill of gradual development for some sophisticated rhythm-building. Odyssey oozes with the quality of a professional right from the start.
Odyssey is a fresh slab of breathy electronica, exhaling clean-cut electronic beats. The techno-inspired, minimalist opening is enough to whet the appetite. The rhythm has been heard in a million clubs, but it’s something that will never go out of date. The crimson synth swells are as emotional, and as expressive, as a thoughtful vibrato. West manages to make electronic music a little more human; smile, sorrow and skin.
The electronic interface partially surrenders to the more natural sound of crackling ice, error clicks on the computer and muted plucks on the guitar forming some of the additional rhythm. Minimal in the making, West is very selective as to what goes into his music. A lot of electronic music is saturated in blips and bleeps, but less is always more. Inspired by minimalism, house, IDM and glitch, the five tracks snake their way around the electronic battlefield with variety and ease.
West’s music as Rival Consoles has a silky, human touch that drives the robotic away; the music is human after all. Purposeful, driving beats coalesce into swells of synth, while never feeling disjointed the moment the tracks transition. ‘Rebecca’ is a playful one, as prismatic orbs carrying bright, electronic lights zoom across the eye-line. The synths feel toyed with – well, it’s supposed to be fun, right? Intervals blend into one another, and like love at first sight the music is over far too quickly; the sweet moment when eye contact lasts just a little longer than usual.
West never loses the beat in a spacious theater of sound. Peter Broderick’s vocal line on ‘Soul’ naturally tunes the ear to the sound of the voice, making it feel even more human. And it is during the coda that we realize how far we’ve come – what started out as a robotic, yet energetic beat running on nitrous fuel finishes with a philosophical musing on the soul.