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The title of Rival Consoles new album Persona was inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film of the same name, specifically a shot in the opening credits of a child reaching out to touch a woman’s face on a screen, which is shifting between one face and another. This powerful image struck Ryan (Ryan Lee West aka Rival Consoles) and it inspired the album’s main theme — an exploration of the persona. The difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us, the spaces in between; between states, people, light and dark, the inner persona and the outer persona.
Recorded at his studio in south-east London, Persona benefits from Ryan’s exploration of a dynamic production process that combines analogue-heavy synthesisers, acoustic and electric instruments with a shoegaze-level obsession with effect pedals. A greater depth of emotion and confidence can be heard across the album. From the deconstructed movements on Unfolding that starts the album with a snap of delayed snares, the apocalyptic drones of the title track and thundering drums in Phantom Grip to more restrained ambient feels of Dreamer’s Wake, Rest and Untravel. The latter transverses six beatless minutes of undulating melodies representing “a limbo space, a feeling of ennui, of not really ever being known to others and others not ever really being known to you”.
Be Kind reveals a musical connection with fellow Erased Tapes artist Nils Frahm, with its minimal approach and improvisational nature. On the more complex sounding I Think SoRyan aims to replicate a colour collage with sound. Like a musical kaleidoscope, a flashing and convoluted mass. Written after he saw Slowdive perform live last year, Hidden builds from whispers to landscapes of controlled noise.
In an interview with XLR8R magazine, Ryan explains: “once you start trying to make a sound loud, then you turn your back on thousands and thousands of sonic possibilities. One of the best things to do is to start a track with a really quiet, weak sound.”
Taking this idea to its ultimate conclusion, Fragment closes the album as an innocent sounding ambient piece, almost nursery rhyme like, yielding time for reflection on how the persona has changed.
Persona’ follows the success of a series of releases — EPs Odyssey and Sonne, LP Howl,and 2016’s mini album Night Melody — that saw Ryan mature into what Pitchfork has called a “forward-thinking electronic musician with his own ideas about sound”. Atypical of instrumental-electronic music, Ryan has achieved a signature sound that’s unmistakably identifiable as Rival Consoles. Going beyond typical electronic music production, Ryan defines it as “songwriting with an electronic palette of sounds”.
3. Memory Arc
4. Phantom Grip
5. Be Kind
6. I Think So
7. Sun’s Abandon
8. Dreamer’s Wake