Ryan Lee West, aka Rival Consoles, is a producer concerned with the inherent humanity and emotion of electronic music. Through washes of analogue synths, rattling drum machines, bright melodies and susurrating reverb, West defies the mechanic impulse of the dancefloor and instead utilises his electronics as a means of introspection and expression.
The first signee to Robert Raths’ Erased Tapes label, West’s productions have as much in common with the plaintive piano compositions of his label mate Nils Frahm, as they do with the propulsive orchestrations of Four Tet or Floating Points.
Intricately layered, yet often composed through improvisation, his latest LP Persona is a solipsistic exploration of the sounds that make up the self. As a result, the record encompasses everything from the cathartic top-line synths of the rave, to vivid solo melodies and the eerie fuzz of sub-heavy basslines.
Ahead of his album launch at London’s XOYO in April and his appearance at this summer’s Gottwood Festival, we spoke to West about his artistic inspiration for the record, the importance of conflict in art, and the enduring appeal of ambience.
How did the Ingmar Bergman film Persona inspire your new record of the same name?
When I was studying music technology at university over 10 years ago we had to analyse the opening credits of Persona and I was really struck by it, in particular the way that the young boy walks towards a screen and reaches out to it, which is morphing between two women’s faces. I thought this was such a simple but powerful and moving way to show human psychology through technology.
The film plays with the disconnect between perception and experience – do you feel like your music is a reflection of yourself or a separate, distinct entity?
It’s become more me as I have gotten older because when I started making music I had no real experience of life and had nothing much to say, though I felt I did musically. Over time you go through various life experiences which alter you forever.
What was your recording process for Persona? Did it differ at all from your previous records Howl and Night Melody?
I tend to work in a similar way, generally in solitude, but I do spend a lot of time going out in the evening and travelling listening to sketches away from my studio. I work a lot and kind of play in a sense of chaos and over time I make sense of everything if I can!
How would you say your sound and productions have developed over the years?
It’s become more about mood and expression, achieving more with less. I think I’m now more sensitive to tone and timbre. I also tend these days to achieve one main idea with a piece rather than overcomplicating it with several others.
Do you ever improvise any of your recorded work?
Almost all of the melodic and harmonic synth ideas are improvised and recorded live then edited later if needed. For instance, ‘Be Kind’ is exclusively an improvisation: one take, recorded in Mono using the Korg Minilogue.
What effect would you like the record to have on its listeners?
I hope it draws listeners into its own world. It’s important to show electronic music in contrasting themes: soft and heavy, light and dark, busy and sparse.
What is your relationship to ambient music? ‘Untravel’ seems to build a rave-like intensity into an ambient structure…
Yeah, that might be subconscious in ‘Untravel’. People like Tim Hecker showed everyone that ambience has its own universe of possibilities and isn’t just full of reverb and delays.
With ‘Untravel’ I created the main chord progression in five minutes and I was instantly struck by it because it neither has a sad nor happy mood. It’s the central piece in the album for me because it communicates this subtle yet powerful idea about being human.
Do you enjoy building-in a sense of eeriness or tension into your music?
It’s more that I feel it is essential to art. Tension and conflict create energy and generally I am drawn to art with conflict because life is full of conflict and not really elegant so I want art to represent that. This is why in my music I am happy to include ugly sounds amongst more elegant ones, it becomes more real like this.
What can we expect from your live show?
The live show will take the album ideas further and include more heightened moments within the transitions and pieces. Live is where my palette of sounds makes the most sense.
Have you played Gottwood before? Do you have ideal spaces or settings that you like to play your music out to?
I haven’t but I have heard great things about it through friends that have been. I generally like atmospheric settings and enough power for me to cut through everyone if needed!
Which artists on the Gottwood bill are excited to see?
Avalon Emerson and Weval!