Rival Consoles third album Howl is an eclectic intense beast, but have we heard it all before?
Ryan Lee West, AKA Rival Consoles, has been off the radar for a while. As hoped this period of self-imposed exile has been spent writing and recording new music, for his third album Howl, released on Erased Tapes Records. It features his trademark blend of acid tinged electro-house that is as perfect for large nights out, as it is for reflective nights in.
The album opens with title track Howl. Galloping beats and some nice bass wobble before the melody kicks in. On the surface this appears to be a simple song, but there is a rich tapestry of melody and refrains bubbling below the surface. The real highlight is the solo in the middle. Sounding slightly like Captain Nemo going mental at a party on the Nautilus, its over before you know what’s hit you, very much like Nemo’s attacking tactics.
At times Afterglow sounds like a musical version of Rice Krispies, as there are three main elements to the song. The snap is the fizzing bassline. Crackle comes in the form of that Nemo type synth and Pop are the tight beats. Combined they offer a slice of euphoria and one of the albums standout moments, next to the title track. If Afterglow is a night out, Pre is the morning after. There is a tinge of melancholy to the proceedings. The beat has the same timing and throbbing intensity as a bad headache the morning after and night of debauchery. Walls, like the title suggests, offers up dense slabs of bass, while synths scurry about beneath them. At times the story of Jericho comes to mind, how horns brought down a wall that an army couldn’t, as the song progresses the bass is lessened and the synths are brought up in the mix. Low starts off with a jazz feel. Rim shots and riffs offer up a suggestion of space and flux, while West inserts synths in the space to create a sense of movement.
Morning Vox is another stand out track. Euphoric manipulated vocals samples make up the barebones of the track. Sharp tight beats back it up to keep things moving and progressing. Three quarters of the way through a dextrously plucked acoustic guitar makes a rare appearance. Its inclusion makes a nice change of tone and texture. There are hints of Orbital at their prime in here too. The only downside of Morning Vox is its timing. It has summer anthem written all over it, as it’s an upbeat and euphoric masterstroke. The album closes with Looming. Like Walls, its title is apt. As the song progresses you get the impression it’s stalking you, as West deft production raises the tension one notch at a time.
Overall West has made an album that is full of invention and bustling with ideas. Sadly some of those ideas are borrowed from his influences. Dan Snaith casts a spectral shadow all over Howl. His presence permeates each track. If you walked into a room and Howl was playing, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was in fact a Caribou or Daphni track. There are post-dubstep flourishes to the album, that help bed Howl into your psyche. Ghosting has a Hyperdub 2007 feel to it. Everything feels slightly murky and impenetrable. Throughout the album downbeat breakbeats work exceedingly well juxtaposed with the faster synth loops that help add syncopation. While there is nothing wrong with Howl, the compositions pulse and throb in the right places, and the production is as tight as ever, we’ve heard it all before and in some instances, we’ve heard better.