You sit in a subway deep underground. The lights flicker and the car teeters back and forth on the rail from the high speed. You can’t remember for how long you’ve been riding. The brakes engage, and you steadily come to a halt before the doors slide open. You step onto the platform, but there’s no exit up to the surface. You hear a rumbling beat approaching from the distance, a loud screech, and another subway car stops in front of you. You step into it . . .
A large portion of electronic music exists for the sole purpose of offering a comforting environment to which a listener can escape. The pillowy rhythms serve a function (and we all know there’s a surplus of them), but some of the most significant, captivating sounds jar and rattle listeners, rather than cradle them. Howl is the newest full-length from Leicester-native, London-based producer Ryan Lee West, known as Rival Consoles.
West builds his genre-fluid compositions with jagged, shifting grooves and ethereal synths. There’s a hazy darkness that looms over this record, which gives all the tracks a ghostly quality of immersion that’s entrancing. The progressive, phantom-like song structures take on the shapes of house, techno, ambient, trip-hop, and possess qualities of many others, but this cathartic journey is in a category of its own.
The two frequent downfalls of electronic music are, 1) it often doesn’t convey real feeling, and 2) it often falls into comfortable predictability. However, this record doesn’t carry either of these hinderances in any capacity. Howl is proof that potent emotion can be poured into electronic music, and it can shine through in the form of compelling songwriting. If you’re seeking ghostly, grooving electronics, this album is for you.
– stasi (@stasisphere)