Battling against criticism of electronic music as a soulless and mechanic non-craft, Ryan Lee West returns under the alias of Rival Consoles with his latest release, Persona, to further demonstrate the delicate human touch that is ubiquitous within the genre. Having been inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s film of the same name, West approaches the album with a growing concern for ontological thought, aiming to explore the discrepancies between perception and reality, as well as those between the inner and outer selves.
It is with the quasi-marching feel of delayed snares on ‘Unfolding’ that the scene is set for the next 58 minutes of jerks and propulsions, whilst figures split between a swelling tide of sound waves and polyrhythmic pulses, plunging into West’s distinctive grid-grappling world. Drawing from Bergman’s opening scene with equal eeriness, the sonic space then opens out into the brooding pitch-bends of ‘Persona’, with a footing in both the arenas of unsettling thriller movie and entrancing dance.
As the album progresses, it becomes clear that the orchestration and dynamics mark this as West’s most expansive work to date. Whilst ‘I Think So’ reels synthesized dots and growling strings through the plains of peripheral vision before thrusting in domineering and reverberant kicks, ‘Sun’s Abandon’ and ‘Dreamer’s Wake’ intersperse vocal samples and acoustic guitar breaks with off-beat frameworks, amalgamating in a more humane imprint.
The themes of human expression and introspection throughout Persona are most apparent, however, on ‘Be Kind’ and ‘Untravel’. Whilst the former builds upon delicate tingles that swim across the stereo image, the latter ripples and unravels through the hairs on the back of the neck which stand in awe of the music’s gravitational force.
Persona thus highlights the many faces of Ryan Lee West, which shift from enthralling layers of effects into deeper concerns of cathartic affect; pungent and driving motions often give way to sombre flashes of darkness, where a ponderous and untravelling explorer can be found within.