“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is Ryan Lee West better known as Rival Consoles: a stupefying, liquefying and electrifying electronic composer, A/V artiste and sonic architect, whose new album “Articulation” was the result of shape shifting conundrums he’d set himself to expand his mind and musical palette. I recently heard it as the 6Music Album of the Day and I was blown away by it like in the Maxell Hi-Fidelity tape advert (c. 1983) or an F1 car in a wind tunnel. West is a visually minded producer, and was inspired on “Articulation” (out on Erased Tapes) by the avant garde contemporary composer Györgi Ligeti with his piece of the same name – not musically but by the non-traditional graphic score that accompanied it – see here – or you could say hear, see. During the writing process Ryan drew structures, shapes and patterns by hand to try and find new ways of thinking about music, giving himself a way to problem-solve away from the computer, which has given a human heart and soul, and pastoral feel that I’d not heard since Bibio, to otherwise expansive digital music. It’s a beauteous and righteous listen. As a result I am beyond chuffed to welcome the precisely structured yet anything but economic electronic expertise of West aka Rival Consoles to Velvet Sheep, not least because he’s fantastically articulate in his song choice.
Before we get to that, here’s the closer to the album, the euphoric “Sudden Awareness of Now” which begat from the tuneful birdsong overheard from his studio window, and which builds into a fluid swirling synth banger, constructed from drawn shapes and a burning of the midnight oil…
You can’t knock the unrivalled work ethic of Rival Consoles. As well as contributing a track called “Them Is Us” to Adult Swim’s cult Singles series, West also shared a compelling solo piano piece “Winter’s Lament” on this year’s Piano Day. And if that weren’t enough he scored Charlie Brooker’s highly rated Black Mirror episode “Striking Vipers”, composed original music for Secret Cinema presents Stranger Things and worked on noted choreographer Alexander’s Whitley’s groundbreaking new work “Overflow” which was set to premiere at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre this spring.
Since the release of his album Persona in 2016, West has taken a striking live A/V set on tour including with 17 players of the London Contemporary Orchestra at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in January 2020, just before such a performance became unimaginable due to the pandemic force majeure, and it’s this performance that feeds into the Rival Consoles “song for ewe” choice.
Before that, here’s another cracking tune from “Articulation” – not so much air on a G string as heavy “Vibrations on a String”…
And here’s the artwork for “Articulation” – redolent of Designers Republic minimalist work for many of the best Warp covers, it’s icy cool, as is West’s choice of tune…
…so without further ado, here’s the Rival Consoles “song for ewe”…
“Michael Gordon’s Rushes
I found out about Michael Gordon’s Rushes because I performed, with the LCO, on the same programme at the Southbank Centre in January 2020.
This is one of those few pieces that I think you can actually be hypnotised by… and with ease!
Even as an analytical music maker and listener this piece – just in the first few minutes, let alone across its epic duration – completely melts my thinking. I love how you forget where the notes are starting, what notes are being played, and the sounds of the bassoons start to become other things: they become flutes, they become synthesisers, they become the human voice, they become distortion, interference, distant, close etc – there is so much shape shifting going on, but without the egotistical desire to say “hey, look how shape shifting this music is”. It is just something that is happening naturally and as a consequence to the parts, playing and timing of it all.
When I am listening just now, I constantly forget what came just moments before, I have a rough idea, but never precise. You really listen to the present moment in this music – the past is a blur and faded and the future not clear at all, which is a remarkable achievement. It’s almost as if the music doesn’t have structure, but you know that it does.
Throughout part 1 there is a hint of sadness and loss for me – but so gentle.
Towards the end of part 2 – the first sense of melody breathes over the top of the sounds, and it is very special despite being so effortless, it is kind of a sweet moment.
Part 3 starts with a different mood, almost like a resetting – a new day, more optimistic. Over the duration so much stretching and slowing of time happens. I think the exploration of time is extremely inspiring in this piece and one that a lot of people can learn from.
The final moments of this feel like a haze and almost drunk, the notes are a little in conflict. There is this sense of a momentum coming to an end, and it ends in a surprising way, kind of abruptly, and you are left with silence, which for me seems very extreme after the listening experience. That alone proves something significant has happened.
This is the recording I was listening to:
Which is also available on YouTube:
There are also some live performances on YouTube including this one:
THANKS VERY MUCH TO RYAN LEE WEST AND TO ZOE MILLER AT ZOPF PR