Kalporz X Monolith Cocktail: Interview with Rival Consoles

January 26, 2022

Interview/ Paolo Bardelli
Photo/ Courtesy of Ozge Cone (autorizzate dall’ Ufficio Stampa JA.LA MEDIA ACTIVITIES IG: @ozgecone)

In a synergy between our two great houses, each month the Monolith Cocktail shares a post (and vice versa) from our Italian pen pals at Kalporz. This month, we relay Paolo Bardelli’s interview with Erased Tapes artist and electronic music composer Ryan Lee West, aka Rival Consoles.

The electronica of Rival Consoles, the stage name of London-based Ryan Lee West (on the Erased Tapes label), is striking because it floats in a world that remains suspended between the mental and the physical: yours truly considers him one of the most lucid composers in the world of electronica, and adores his third album “Howl” (2015). His is an evolved electronic artist, moving from IDM to “other” landscapes, such as the cinematic ones in “Persona” (2018). Consistent with this evolution, Rival Consoles has now turned to composing for contemporary dance, as we reported back in October, which was reason enough to interview him (by email).

Paolo Bardelli: I’ve always considered your music, perhaps mistakenly, to be more mental than physical, perhaps because of your predilection for broken tempos rather than linear ones: was the arrival at composing a contemporary dance soundtrack a challenge in this sense, or was it natural because you’ve always considered “dance” a modality that can always be associated with your music?

In the club world I would say my music isn’t “dance music” but in the bigger picture: including contemporary dance, ballet etc. It is a mistake to assume dance has to be repetitive and rhythmic in the way that house/techno is, for example ‘rite of spring’ by Stravinsky is music to dance and that is one of the most wild unhinged pieces of music ever. There are many points on the sonic spectrum to explore, and really anything is possible to experiment with and become relevant to dance.

In the press notes it says that you spent a lot of time with the dance troupe and the production, creating, perfecting and tailoring the music: since this certainly influenced “Overflow”, do you think that having experienced, live, a manifestation of bodily expressiveness associated with music will also influence your composition in the future?

I have worked several times with contemporary dance and it definitely does influence how you shape and change music over time, in a similar way to composing for film – once you set music against image or moving image everything changes and things which didn’t seem interesting now maybe became very interesting and things which seemed powerful perhaps now sound false/overpowering – it is a great refreshing world – where the senses are renewed.

The project was based on the contemporary philosophical work ‘Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power’ by Byung-Chul Han which is, from what I read in the abstracts, a critique of neoliberalism and the regime of technological domination: do you agree with the book’s theses and is there anything that struck you most about his thought?

I agree with huge amounts of the book, the way the social media is exhausting our psychology by creating a never ending, never tiring need to contribute to it. We are constantly being influenced to be active and present online; even exercise, yoga and healthy diets are often just a means to be more productive, to be seen a certain way and to share that constantly online. The internet with its incredible fast-moving speed makes doing nothing seem guilty and illogical but constant self-optimisation is very dangerous for us as we are animals and not machines.

Will that very corporeality we mentioned at the beginning be a greater necessity in a necessarily technological and pandemic future?

I’m not certain what will be necessary in the future, I think right now there is already so much to confront and try to change for the better bit by bit.

Your electronics still seem to me to have a very strong human side: how much do you like the use of analogue instrumentation, I mean synths and the like, as opposed to PC programming?

I find I can get various things from all types of equipment and it’s not that analogue instantly makes more human sounding things; it can very easily sound too perfect and ordered. It’s more about the relationship between the ideas and the sounds, and the taste of the composer. I am interested in having tension always in music, and then I can explore resolve from that tension – and this is of course one of the oldest most used techniques, as used in almost all classical music and indeed techno. With analogue instruments you mainly get a beautiful restriction of what you will actually do and then makes you commit more to something in the moment.

‘Overflow’ premiered in May 2021 in London and is scheduled for a European tour in 2022. You’ve been busy with a series of headlining gigs in the UK this autumn and in North America in the new year: will gigs change forever after this pandemic or do you think it will go back to pre-2020 as far as live shows are concerned?

I am not totally sure, I do think if the pandemic were to reduce and be a minor thing in society, live shows would return as normal, because I think music and witnessing music is far too deep a human desire than something like a pandemic to change. But we do seem to be in a world where we are unsure from month-to-month, not even year to year. I try not to think about it too much because it isn’t something I can control.

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