Elec­tronic

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Chris Johnston

Per­sona Ri­val Con­soles Erased Tapes Ri­val Con­soles is the stage name of south Lon­don elec­tronic pro­ducer Ryan Lee West, a mu­si­cal out­sider and stu­dio iso­la­tion­ist in the loose mould of Aphex Twin, Burial or Ac­tress. He also has a foot in the mod­ern clas­si­cal/ elec­tronic world of la­bel mate Nils Frahm as well as Ola­fur Ar­nalds, the great Ice­landic sound­sca­per. What this all adds up to, in the glitchy grooves and eerie sound­scapes of Per­sona, is deep mys­tery and a lot of ab­so­lutely beguil­ing magic.

This al­bum — his fourth, join­ing seven EPs since 2007 — is named af­ter an ex­per­i­men­tal In­g­mar Bergman film from 1966 in which a char­ac­ter is ren­dered mute by men­tal ill­ness; she is helped by a doc­tor and nurse (both also fe­male) who strug­gle to un­der­stand each other and also strug­gle with har­row­ing images from the out­side world. West says a dis­turb­ing shot in the film’s open­ing se­quence of a child reach­ing to­ward a woman’s face on a screen, an im­age talk­ing of a fu­tile de­sire for con­nec­tion, in­spired him most of all: “the spa­ces in be­tween”, he says. “Be­tween states, peo­ple, light and dark, the in­ner per­sona and the outer per­sona.”

So, heavy stuff. But like many Euro­pean or Bri­tish purist pro­duc­ers who de­con­struct the tropes of techno, rave, garage and house mu­sic, there’s a stun­ning beauty and majesty to West’s work. The clat­ter and men­ace of the ti­tle track, for ex­am­ple, matches the best of Burial’s ex­tra­or­di­nary work on Burial or Un­true in that it takes what is known about an un­der­ground club form — garage, in this case, or more specif­i­cally Bri­tish garage — and uses it as the base for a seven-minute­long, voice­less ex­plo­ration of ur­ban noise, ur­ban life and, as it draws to a close, ur­ban dis­con­nec­tion and fright. Su­perb stuff.

The track Be Kind ush­ers in the mid­dle phase of the al­bum, and it’s here we hear the legacy of Aphex Twin at his calmest. More re­cent ref­er­ence points would be Four Tet or beat­less Boards of Canada; there’s a de­li­cious flut­ter­ing beat and cir­cu­lar, me­dieval note pat­terns over a very soft heart­beat rhythm for the en­tire track. It’s ground­ing and earth­based, and makes me think of a squadron of silent birds pass­ing by. But then Sun’s Aban­don in­tro­duces a clat­ter­ing 1980s new beat core with syn­the­siser sounds rem­i­nis­cent of the Stranger Things theme; it then be­comes Dreamer’s Wake, with wood­block per­cus­sion and more skele­tal, faint beats. Un­travel is another beat­less, clas­si­cally am­bi­ent odyssey. Very Frahm or vintage Brian Eno, it is fath­oms deep through big speak­ers but is re­ally just a sig­nal as mu­sic; a slight, mes­meris­ing shim­mer.

There are so many qual­ity ref­er­ences to West’s mu­sic that it’s an in­cred­i­bly re­ward­ing lis­ten, due in no small part to how essen­tially un­know­able and time­less it is. His is very much a post-techno sound, rooted in Detroit and Ber­lin at the end of the 80s and emerg­ing from those dark, ro­botic times in many wonderful, light-filled di­rec­tions.

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