Over the years there have been a lot of great break up albums, for us the punters that is. Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Beck Sea Change, Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel and The Weeknd House of Balloons immediately spring to mind. But there is a new one to add to that list. Rival Consoles’ Night Melody.
Before you start scratching your heads and thinking “Wait, how an instrumental electronic album can be added to this list of greats?” you need a bit of back story and an open mind. When Rival Consoles, AKA Ryan Lee West, released his last album, Howl, he was going through a break up of a thirteen year long relationship. To get over this he threw himself into work. As the story goes he found himself staying up until silly o’clock writing music. The six songs that make up Night Melody are part of this process.
From the opening notes of ‘Pattern of the North’ you can feel a deep brooding melancholy lurking just below the surface. Jerky beats and twitchy bass keep the song moving forward while the synths convulse around us. ‘Johannesburg’, ‘Lone’ and final track ‘What Sorrow’ follow this blueprint too. Everything pulsates, clicks and blips, but deep in its core there are flourishes that show that all is not well in West’s heart. West puts it like this “This record is very personal to me, and I hope it offers something for other people, as it helped me to make it and to listen to it. I’m not interested in making something sad or something happy. I want music to be bittersweet, like life containing moments of vibrant colour and hope as much as darkness and sadness.”
Each track feels like it should be played at a different part of the night. ‘Pattern of the North’ is the kind of song you’d play while getting ready to go out, or is when you first get to the club. It isn’t a foot to the floor banger, or mind melting glitch fest, but somewhere in between. It hints at things to come, while never over stepping the boundaries of its jaunty rhythms. ‘Lone’ is the musical equivalent of getting a second, or third, wind at 2 in the morning. You feel drained and tired but from nowhere, BAM, you feel alive and raring to go. The title track, Night Melody, is the perfect song to be played while you are in a taxi going home. There is a mechanical feeling to the track that syncs up with lampposts, parked cars, other homeward travellers pass you by in time with the clicks, blips and bass rushes.
On one hand Night Melody plays like a standard electronic album. It delivers a massive impact through minimal elements. Played at the right time on a night out and this would be flawless, but when you start to play it at home, or at work, you start to pick out these pangs of poignant mourning. It’s these elements that separate West from his peers and makes Night Melody one, if not the, strongest releases in his impeccable back catalogue.